A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or $3.00

In a recent post I mentioned that I have undertaken a project to rehab my entire fleet of modern carriers and large deck amphibs. Some of the work is the result of damage incurred during my many moves while in the military. As a consequence of that I had to order a bunch of replacement parts from GHQ. Main masts, radar platforms, that sort of thing. My initial conversation with them left something to be desired. The worker answering the phone demonstrated little knowledge of their products or policies and suggested I write an email request instead. In truth, it sounded like she didn’t want to deal with my request and the sooner I was off the phone the better. Three weeks and two unanswered emails later I decided to call back. The phone was answered by a woman, I wouldn’t swear that it was the same woman but the voice sounded very similar, who was very helpful and carefully explained their special order policy. This is not the first time I’ve made special orders but I appreciate the reminder that sometimes they have to do additional cast runs to fulfill the orders and therefore it may take more time and would not be returnable. Fine with me. All of the special order parts are priced to reflect this extra work. I was shocked however to find out that each of the CVN deck decals would cost me $8. Ah, I’ll find another way.

One of the vitally important items to me was a replacement CIWS/NATO SS sponson that was missing from a CVN I purchased on ebay many years ago. At the time I shaped one out of styrene that was a reasonable approximation and it has served that purpose well. Here is what I’m talking about.

Hand Made Sponson for STBD Side CIWS/NATO SS on GHQ CVN-71 Model.

Hand Made Sponson for STBD Side CIWS/NATO SS on GHQ CVN-71 Model.

So on the phone and in email I described this piece as the sponson forward of the deck elevators that mounts the CIWS and NATO SS. A few days later I received an email telling me my order was almost ready to ship out but the worker who packages up the parts wanted some clarification of exactly what part I was talking about. Awesome, I thought, now I’m sure to get the right part. My response was that what I needed was “the smaller part that mounts on the right side forward of the deck elevators, not the long piece” in reference to her question about the long piece that attaches on the port side of the ship. What I should have done was taken a picture because I forgot something.

Photo of STBD side of GHQ CVN-71 Model Showing Three Sponsons.

Photo of STBD side of GHQ CVN-71 Model Showing Three Sponsons.

Yes, there is a sponson under the island, one between the elevators and the one I wanted forward of the elevators. If I had taken this picture then I could have saved myself $3 and received the part I really need. Instead I got this:

Sponson Part from Between the Elevators on the STBD Side of GHQ CVN-71 Model

Sponson Part from Between the Elevators on the STBD Side of GHQ CVN-71 Model

No refunds. And I do recognize that I bear some of the blame, this is not intended to be a total rant against GHQ. I thought I was clear but I wasn’t looking at the part sheet and I didn’t send a picture of the part I wanted during the email exchange I was having with them. They were looking at a part I had frankly forgotten even existed so we ended up talking past each other. Live and learn. I guess I’ll have to order another replacement once I get a future order together. In the meantime if you ever wondered what $62 buys you in spare parts from GHQ here it is. Seven mainmasts, four radar stanchions, four radars, and the wrong sponson. Sometimes you have to really want to do a restoration to pay those prices.

Spare Parts for GHQ CVN-71 Restoration Projects. Mainmasts, Radar Masts, and the Wrong Sponson.

Spare Parts for GHQ CVN-71 Restoration Projects. Mainmasts, Radar Masts, and the Wrong Sponson.

Progress Update: All Those Tiny Ships

A few years ago I decided to try out a new scale for naval wargaming, 1/6000. This scale offers a few potential advantages, from a gaming perspective, over my traditional naval wargaming scale of 1/2400. For one thing the “ground scale” can be matched more closely with the actual scale of the models. Depending on the scenario, a small scenario on a large table, one could even run a game at 1/6000 ground scale. Ship formations would be more realistic, at larger scales bridge to bridge distances between ships would require the miniatures to overlap if a player wanted to simulate naval doctrine. One result of this is players use formations that “look right” but end up breaking down the mutual support capabilities planned into particular formations.

In modern scenarios this scale helps illustrate how potent fast moving missiles and aircraft can be. Many rule systems designed for use with 1/2400 scale models use a ground scale of 1/36,000, in this scale two inches equals one nautical mile. Aircraft and missile move through engagement envelopes very quickly at this scale and certain abstractions have to be made to allow players at least one defensive shot.  Even running these smaller miniatures at a ground scale of 1/12,000 provides a 3x expansion over the typical scale with larger models. This reduces the need for many of the abstractions necessary with larger models. I think this gives a much better feel to the game.

So what are the downsides? Well they are smaller models so those of you who are more into collecting will have less detail to entice you. Another downside is that, to my knowledge, if you leave 3D printing out of the equation for the moment there is only one manufacturer that I’m aware of, Figurehead Miniatures. I believe, but I am far from certain, that Figurehead is owned by the good folks at The Last Square. In the 1/6000 range Figurehead offers models from the Russo-Japanese war up through moderns. If you’re a fan of modern naval wargaming then the modern range may be a little disappointing. To date they only cover U.S., British, Russian/Soviet, Argentinian navies, and some commercial shipping vessels. If you want to run the Falklands war you can. If you want to game the rise of the PRC in the South China Sea you can only field one side. I have spoken to  The Last Square about expanding the range to include JMSDF, RoKN, RoCN, PLAN, and Indian naval forces but so far there isn’t enough demand signal for them to go forward with those ideas. One can only hope the future will see these lines expanded. Even GHQ broke a 12+ year hiatus and started making new 1/2400 scale models for modern navies including JMSDF and PRC.

For those who may not have seen these ships here are some newer pictures. Once I get more painted, I’m only about 25% complete, I’ll standardize how I want to paint the water effects on the bases. Enjoy!

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

This Just In…

After a longish hiatus I’ve come back to give you an update. Major projects underway at this time include a complete rehab/refurbish and repaint of my 1/2400 scale modern aircraft carriers and large deck amphibs. Originally these had their flight decks painted flat black. While this choice made the aircraft and deck decals stand out better it wasn’t realistic. With something like 15-20 ships, when I include the LHA/LHD classes, this has been a major undertaking. GHQ has informed me that my special order replacement parts should be going in the mail today so unfortunately that project will have to be a future post.

Another future post will cover my ongoing, if slow, attempt to paint my growing 1/6000 scale modern fleets. Currently, I have a collection of a little over 450 ships with another 20 due to arrive any day now. I’m struggling to paint them all and fix the carriers and build the naval base diorama (yet another future post)… I am about 25% complete overall, all of them are primed, most have their base hull color and now I’m going through, ship class by ship class, painting decks and details. Still not sure how I want to address the water effects for their little bases though.

So, if all of that lies in the future what is this post about? Well, occasionally when I have a bit of extra cash I look around to see what’s new from various manufacturers. Today I’m going to be featuring Viking Forge‘s Mini-Fleet line of 1/2400 scale warships. I’ll simply refer to them as VF. I have mentioned them before and they have some pretty interesting stuff in their product lines. If I understand their products correctly they are a licensed manufacturer of Sea Battle miniatures, from Austria, as well as making their own models. If you look in their catalog the items with numbers that begin “SB” are Sea Battle products and those without are VF products.

In general, all the products in the VF catalog are well proportioned, crisply cast and well detailed. You won’t find the hyper-detailing of GHQ’s products but you will see scale appropriate details. From time to time some of their models have moderate seam lines or flash as well as loss of crispness in the details. This is likely due to the age of the molds being used and affects all casting molds eventually. It would be interesting to find out if they have their own masters here in the U.S. or if they have to import new ones from Austria. Another company that carries Sea Battle in the U.S. is ALNAVCO. I talked to them years ago, before VF picked up the licensing, about this range and why it was so expensive. ALNAVCO imported their models from Austria so on average you’re paying almost $10 more per model. The catalog numbers are essentially the same. The models are the same, I have one ALNAVCO purchased JMSDF Oosumi LHA (catalog number SB353) and one purchased from VF (catalog number SB353). They are identical. ALNAVCO sells theirs at $23.50, when I bought it it was maybe half that. VF sells theirs for $6.95. I’ll leave it up to you.

Enough! On to the pictures. My most recent acquisitions are a pair of French Navy LaFayette frigates, a pair of RoC Navy Kang Ding frigates, a Wichita class AOR for the USN, and a pack of four Type 022 FAC for the PRC PLAN. The first three items are Sea Battle molds and the FAC are a VF creation. The Kang Ding’s are modifications of the French LaFayette class so I bought the French ships just to see if the VF marketers got out ahead of the modelers.  Here are the results and I hope you enjoy.

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

French Navy LaFayette Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

RoC Navy Kang Ding Frigate. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

US Navy Wichita Replenishment Oiler. 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

PRC Navy Type 022 FAC (Houbei Class). 1/2400 Scale Model by Viking Forge

 

The Wichita models looks like it is showing signs of aging. The seam lines are more pronounced than I would have liked and the area around the flight deck looks like it has lost some detail over the years. Don’t get me wrong this is still a very good model I just think it might be getting a little long in the tooth.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Wichita Class AOR Showing Minor Seam Slippage.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Wichita Class AOR Showing Minor Seam Slippage and Detail Loss.

 

The new frigate models were very clean and crisp with very minor seam lines, on par with any manufacturer anywhere.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Kang Ding and LaFayette Frigates Showing Very Minor Seam Lines on Flight Decks.

Viking Forge 1/2400 Scale Kang Ding and LaFayette Frigates Showing Very Minor Seam Lines on Flight Decks.

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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

What would you ask for if you had a replicator?  I suppose people in the 23rd century are beyond needing cash or maybe Jean-Luc would order up some gold bullion instead of tea.  While I don’t have a replicator but I do have access to Shapeways 3D printing. As I have mentioned before I have become very interested in Figurehead’s line of 1/6000 scale modern naval miniatures.  They pack a very impressive amount of detail into very small packages.  To date I have collected a little over 300 of these ships.  Sadly I have been a much more diligent collector than painter.

Figurehead Miniatures will be the topic of a future post so I won’t get too far down in the weeds here.  What I will say is they have a decent range of models available for the lines they choose to cover.  As one example, their Falkland Islands range is probably the most complete range of any manufacturer in any scale.  If you want Russian/Soviet kit, Royal Navy or U. S. Navy ships the you’re in luck.  If you want Chinese (either one), Japanese, Korean, or even French ships you’re out of luck, so far.  I have no insight into Figurehead’s production plans and I have no patience either.  Enter Shapeways.  I guess I should say once again that Shapeways is actually the print shop the actual designer is afrodri from Objects May Appear…

I have been reluctant to order very many “printed” ships.  The pictures on the Shapeways website aren’t always convincing.  Other photos I’ve seen on various fora suggest the models come out looking a little fuzzy.  Not out of focus but actually fuzzy.  My own experience with the JMSDF Hyuga was positive but not overwhelming.  But I have needs.  I need JMSDF, Korean, Chinese, and Indian naval vessels.  Looking through the Shapeways catalog I settled on a one-stop shopping approach for the Indian Navy.  While these ships weren’t at the top of my list they had the advantage of being offered all together.  The other “fleet packs” for JMSDF and Korea didn’t have the mix of ships I was looking for and there isn’t a set for PRC that I could find.

In terms of what comes in the package this is what the website says.  Indian Naval Fleet: 3 Brahmaputra, 3 Godavari, 3 Delhi, 6 Talwar, 8 Kumbhir, 12 Veer, and 1 Vikramaditya.  I don’t think I would have left the aircraft carrier last in the list but that is just me.  It looked like a pretty solid offering and all that for under $20.  I would like to see the Kolkata and Shivalik classes as well but this is good enough for now.  I have to say even though it was only an investment of twenty bucks, ordering a bunch of ship models with only the computer generated picture to go by was a bit disturbing.  Printing a Veer/Tarantul at this scale seemed unlikely to be successful.  In fact at one point I received an email from Shapeways informing me there was a delay with the shipment of my order “Each and every product is made to order at Shapeways, so sometimes we experience delays during the complex 3D printing process”.  And I felt sure the next email would start “We regret to inform you…”

Of course that didn’t happen.  The shipment went out three days later and arrived about a week after that.  Right out of the box I was impressed with the ships.  The level of detail is  on par with the Figurehead ships I think, although the semi-translucence of the material makes it hard to judge for sure.  If I can figure out how to base them in a manner similar to the rest of my 1/6000 fleet I will definitely call this experiment a success.  Here are some pictures…

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack.  Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear...  3D Printed by Shapeways.

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack. Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear… 3D Printed by Shapeways.

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear...

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear…

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

If I can get my hands on a digital calipers I’ll take some measurements to see how close the models are to true 1/6000 scale but that will be the subject for another day.

Of course the PRC is not the only China…

  Keeping the focus on the Pacific I have decided to revive a long dormant kitbashing project and in the process feature some models of the other Chinese navy.  The Republic of China (ROC) Navy has a long standing tradition of buying U.S. surplus warships so in 2005 when the first pair of Kidd class DDGs were commissioned into the ROC Navy, as the Kee Lung class, I resolved to have my own as well.  There are no quality castings of the Kidd class in 1/2400 scale.  Superior Models makes one I know but I think most of their models are poorly scaled.  The only remaining option is to kitbash one, or in this case four of them.

  With any kitbash project I started with a Google image search to determine what are the major features that differentiate the Kidd class from her sisters in the Spruance class.  Before I continue I should mention that my basic philosophy of modeling in this scale is that close enough is good enough.  What I mean is I consider myself primarily a wargamer and I want a representational model on the table I don’t feel the need for hyper detailing and I’m not bothered if minor details are not technically correct.  From three feet away does it look like a Kidd class DDG? If so, great let’s play!  So the end result is there will be technical differences between the Kidd and Spruance classes that aren’t accounted for in my conversion.  Here is a picture of one of the Kidd DDGs in ROC service which I used as my baseline for the conversion.

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  So the major differences between the two classes are; of course the Mk26 twin launcher instead of the ASROC launcher forward and BPMDS/Sea Sparrow launcher aft, the associated fire control radars on the superstructure, the small housing on top of the bridge supporting the forward fire control radar, and the larger housing aft of the main mast supporting the aft fire control radar.  Any other differences don’t matter at this scale in my opinion.

  Armed with the baseline of changes that need to be incorporated the next step is to identify the proper hull for conversion.  There are a couple of candidates here.  The first option is to use the excellent Spruance model offered by GHQ.

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  It is a beautiful model with plenty of detail.  In fact, the model in the picture is not what you get when you order one.  Most of the aerials in the photo are super details added by the modeler.  The challenges in using this model as the base hull are the cost, at $9.95 a piece it isn’t cheap, and the fact that it is the VLS version which just means more work removing the VLS system to make room for the Mk26 launcher.

  The next option, really two options, are from CinC models.  They produce two versions of the Spruance class, one is the VLS version shown here.

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  The other is the basic configuration shown here.

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    While CinC miniatures are not as detailed as those offered by GHQ the casts are every bit as clean and crisp which makes them excellent candidates for kitbashing projects.  The CinC ships retail at $7 a piece, almost 30% less than GHQ. The other factor influencing my decision at the time was the fact that I happened to have a surplus of CinC Spruance models on hand.  

  In 2006 I started the conversion with four CinC models that had seen better wargaming days and were a little banged up.  The picture below is where the project was left the last time I worked on it in 2006.  The small housing above the bridge for the forward fire control radar and the large housing aft for that fire control radar were constructed using Evergreen Plactic stock and Squadron modeling putty.  Then I got stuck trying to figure out how to make the fire control radars.  I spent hours hand carving two radars out of Evergreen plastic stock for two of the ships.  Result was less than stellar and I shelved the project.  The two radars can almost bee seen on the two closest ships.

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  I think I have a solution for that problem but more on that later.  The next step is to remove the existing launchers from the decks fore and aft.

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  Here’s where I add that I should have stripped the paint off the models before I began the conversion back in 2006.  The next step is to add a thin piece of plastic stock for the missile magazine doors.  I elected to use one larger piece which would be cut down to shape in subsequent steps because it just seemed easier to work with a larger piece until it was securely attached to the hull.  And for those of you with model building experience you already know what happened to me.  The CA glue I used adhered to the paint but not the hull so half of the pieces came off, in whole or in part, during the following steps making it much more work in the final analysis.

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  In the next photo I have drilled the hole for the Mk26 launcher pedestal and started trimming the magazine doors down to a more appropriate size.

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  The next step is to glue the pedestals for the twin launcher in place.  I used oversized pieces to account for variances in the depths of the hole that were drilled earlier. 

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  Here is the final step for today.  The pedestals have been trimmed.  I special ordered extra twin launchers from CinC – they come from their model of the cruiser Virginia – and glued them in place.  You can see that the 5in guns have been damaged in the process which will have to be repaired.  Unfortunately, the original owner of these particular ships cut out the supporting flash of the original cast to make it look more realistic.  Realistsic? Yes. Sturdy enough for table top gaming? No.

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  So what comes next?  Well as I mentioned I need to find a source for the fire control radars and I think I have.  Here is an excellent GHQ model of USS California CGN-35.  On the forward super structure there are three examples of the radars I’m looking for.  It seems like a terrible waste but I think I’ll have to special order o few of these superstructure pieces and them cut them off.  Three of these will give me one more than I need for this project.  Maybe I can use the leftover bits to start my own metal casting projects…

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  While I wait for those parts to arrive I will share a sneak peak at the next ROC Navy projects.  I have a couple of excess Knox class and Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates which will undergo conversion for ROC service.  Initial research indicates the major difference will be the addition of box launchers for indigenous ROC anti-ship missiles.

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  More to come…

How Star Trek got it right.

  The replicator technology in the Star Trek universe is amazing.  Something out of nothing.  Just as communicators begat cell phones I think 3D-printing can trace its parentage to replicators.  If you don’t know what 3D-printing is or understand why I would talk about it here let me show you something.

Image This is a “printed” miniature.  It is a 1/2400 scale model of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Helicopter Curiser Hyuga.  I lived in Japan for a couple of years and deeply regret not going to the “open house” held when she first arrived in Yokosuka.  I desperately wanted one in this scale to augment my other JMSDF warships from Viking Forge miniatures.  [For the purists out there my understanding is Viking Forge has a U.S. production license for Sea Battle miniatures which are produced in Austria.  Their catalog items made under this agreement begin with the ‘SB’ prefix.  I have Sea Battle models made in Austria and by Viking Forge – no difference in quality but Viking Forge is way cheaper than importing.  Now back to our story…]  None of the established companies makes this ship in this scale.  Enter Shapeways.

Shapeways is a 3D-printing service, if I understand their business model correctly.  You design a product you want printed and they can do it for you.  They also provide an online e-commerce space where you can post your gadget for other people to buy.  Shapeways and the gadget creator split the proceeds in some fashion I’m sure.  Some of the designs are crap but some are interesting and possibly unavailable in any other form.  In fact I just saw a z-scale dumpster that would be perfect for 1/285 scale dioramas, but I digress.  Each of the designs can be printed in several different materials depending on your budget or needs.  “White strong & flexible” is the least expensive material and from the models I’ve seen you get what you pay for.  The finish looks bumpy under even casual examination.  Okay for a convention game where damaged or lost models is a real concern.  At a cost of $6.83 there isn’t a whole lot invested. The model pictured above is printed in the “frosted detail” material which is the most expensive option for this model at $14.30.  This is about what a premium company like GHQ would charge for a similarly sized aircraft carrier.  This model is nice but not GHQ nice.  Still, it is currently the only model of this ship available in this scale.

There are faults and imperfections with this model which I will try to cover in a proper Tow Tank evaluation at a later date.  The underlying technology is really cool though and I encourage you to wander around Shapeways and see if there isn’t something that strikes your fancy.