Clearing out the Backlog

In an effort to maintain some balance and clear out the backlog of projects gathering dust in my workroom I finished up a couple of pieces that Ive mentioned on these pages before. First off is the pair of Israeli F-16A’s from GHQ. The models are the same high quality you can expect from GHQ but I’m not completely satisfied with my color mixes, or for that matter the application. At arm’s length their fine, at least for gaming purposes. I need to use an airbrush in the future.

1/285 Scale Israeli F-16A's. Models by GHQ

1/285 Scale Israeli F-16A’s. Models by GHQ

 

I’ve also finished the pair of Korean War USAF F-86’s also from GHQ.

1/285 scale F-86's. Models by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 scale USAF F-86’s. Models by Raiden Miniatures.

 

Still on the workbench are a gaggle of aircraft from GHQ and Raiden Miniatures, now a part of I-94 Enterprises. Most of these will go towards my AIW collection. Not appearing in these photos are a pair of GHQ AH-7 Lynx still waiting to be primed.

 

1/285 Scale SU-7. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 Scale SU-7. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

 

1/285 Scale Mig-21. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 Scale Mig-21. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

 

1/285 Scale F-15C. Model by GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-15C. Model by GHQ.

Advertisements

Bringing Balance

I thought I might take a moment and shift away from naval matters for a while and go back to micro armor. In this case it is really about aircraft for micro armor. I painted up a couple of F-16s from GHQ in Israeli Air Force colors. If you recall one of my first posts was a pair of Super Mysteres and Skyhawks from Raiden Miniatures painted in IAF colors as well. I really liked the colors I mixed for those planes so I was a bit disheartened to see that the paints had dried out completely. Off to my local hobby shop, the Newport Hobby House, to get some new paints. They had most of what I was looking for but the pale green just didn’t come out pale enough to match the previous aircraft. I’m not going to strip them and start over but I will adjust the color before I paint the F-15s and additional Skyhawks I have sitting around. Anyway, here are the F-16s.

!/285 Scale F-16As in Early IAF Camouflage Pattern. Models by GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-16As in Early IAF Camouflage Pattern. Models by GHQ.

 

I’m definitely going to have to tinker around with the colors some more. While I was doing the research for the Skyhawks I came across an interesting modification done by the IAF to help defeat SA-7 and other IR homing missiles. They attached an exhaust extension to the engine tailpipe which caused the missiles homing in on the heat plume to proximity detonate too far away from the fuselage to cause much damage. I have a pair of aircraft that will be modded shortly. Here’s a picture from a plastic kit.

Modified A-4 Skyhawk Tailpipe.

Modified A-4 Skyhawk Tailpipe.

 

On to the F-15s!

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.

Blog323

Works in Progress

Well summer and summer vacation are drawing to a close.  Its time to take stock of what has been accomplished and what has been left undone.  It feels like more should have been accomplished but when I consider the trips to Rome, Florence, Matera, Alberobello, etc. its small wonder there are so many things left to do.

I have been rapidly expanding my 1/6000 scale modern fleet.  As I’ve mentioned before I think the Figurehead miniatures are exceptional considering the scale.  I have just over 200 ships in my collection already with more on the way.  I’m still trying to decide how to paint up the sea base and blackwash the models.  The details are so fine I don’t want to overdo it.

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

I will say this about Figurehead, if you are buying them in the store carefully inspect the packages before you make your purchase.  I have made nearly all my purchases online and have discovered that four of the packages have incorrect ships.  The errors have all occurred in packages with a mixture of ships never when there is only one kind.  For example from the pack that was supposed to have two USN California class, one Bainbridge class, and one Truxton class I received one California, one Bainbridge, and two Truxtons.  The problem is there was only one Truxton made so I have a useless ship.  I encountered a similar thing with the Royal Navy pack that should have one Type 82 Bristol.  Maybe I’ll use these extras as wrecks or something.  I contacted the manufacturer about the errors, not really expecting anything to be done about it, and I received a nice email saying they would look into it and provide a replacement as necessary.  So far nothing else from them.  At least I wasn’t expecting any action so I shouldn’t be disappointed right?

 

More magnet madness.  I purchased some 1mm rare earth magnets online with the idea that maybe I could have revolving turrets on 1/2400 scale battleships.  Well I don’t have any unassembled battleship kits at the moment and I would hate to mess up the paint job of the finished ones I have on this experiment so I’m going to use a proxy to test the magnets.  Enter the trusty MRAPs, in this case the RG-31 Nyala from GHQ.  The machine gun turret should be comparable to a battleship turret peg so we’ll see how it works once the magnets arrive from Hong Kong.

 

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

 

Keeping the nautical theme going for the moment I have a handful of 1/2400 scale ships awaiting paint and decals.  If you remember my Pivot to the Pacific threads there hasn’t been much progress in terms of painting just adding more ships to the fleet.  I’m particularly keen on getting my hands on the Takanami DDG and the GHQ Hyuga when they come out next year.  I’m hopeful that GHQ will also solve my deck marking issues with an excellent set of decals they usually provide with their modern aircraft carriers.  Not appearing below is my recent purchase of GHQ’s LPD-21.  The model itself is up to GHQ’s usual standards and the V-22 Ospreys provided are also pretty good.  The major fault I have with this pack is the “Sea Stallions” listed on the website are in fact the same 20-30 year old casting of SH-3 Sea King helicopters.  I would buy  four or five extra sprues of Sea Stallions if they ever got around to making them but I guess I’ll have to wait.

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga DDH

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

 

Switching gears to the land side of things I’m making, as a test case, a small diorama or vignette as a backdrop for photographing microarmor.  For this one I’ve decided on a European setting which will include a small farm complex with tree lined road, orchard and farmer’s fields.  The vision is to have the vehicle in the field on the left.  The photo would be a quartering shot, not straight down the road as shown here, with the orchards on the hill to the left and the farm complex center right with the road acting as a visual lead in line running from near right to far left.  We’ll see how it turns out.  And then there’s the need for an Arab-Israeli war setting as well.

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Time to get busy.

 

The Nature of Cheating…

I’m not a snob or purist by any stretch of the imagination.  I enjoy this hobby because so much is left up to the individual in terms of what level of effort they want to put into it.  There are certainly plenty of ways to ‘throw money at the problem’ and hire someone to design, build, or paint something that could be made with some personal research, effort, and patience.  What is cheating or maybe I should ask when is it cheating?  Is it cheating when you mail off a box of miniatures to have someone else paint and detail?  Is it cheating when you buy something ready made off ebay?  Is it cheating when you use decals instead of painting by hand.  I doubt ‘cheating’ has any real context in this hobby unless you’re entering into modeling competitions trying to pass off another’s work as your own.  So… why ask the question?

For many years I have been collecting various miniatures ranging from age of sail, WWII, and modern warships to modern armored vehicles.  Almost all of them I have painted myself with varying degrees of success.  There have been some models however, particularly my warships, which have languished in the ‘To-Do’ box because I can’t quite figure out how to finish them.  Usually they need flight deck markings with very scant information available.  Aircraft carriers, especially WWII Axis powers carriers, are a particular challenging in this way.  For a couple of years now I’ve had GHQ’s excellent CV Aquila and Graf Zeppelin sitting waiting for me to figure it out.  Today I made the leap.

Before I get to the reveal let me digress a bit.  Researching the historical records and painting WWII warships in appropriate camouflage patterns is one of the things that got me hooked in miniature wargaming.  When I get a more suitable background made I’ll put together my North Atlantic convoy for a photo shoot.  Here are some GHQ Liberty Ships I painted using schematics and paints from Snyder and Shorts.

Minolta DSC

If you’ve spent any time at all on the GHQ user forum lately you’ll know that one of the regulars, who goes by the avatar WWIICentral, has developed a range of decals for aircraft carrier deck markings.  Tanner, his real name, has created full color, highly detailed decals sized specifically for GHQ miniatures.  His website can be found here.  There is also a very helpful slideshow tutorial which shows how to put the decals on the ships.  In the past I haven’t been a real big fan of full deck decals for aircraft carriers.  I prefer to model the ships with a sizeable deckload of aircraft, I’ve even ordered additional sprues of aircraft to make the deck look more full.  Unfortunately, the aircraft glued to the decal instead of directly to the model means any rough handling will cause the decal to tear and the aircraft to fall off.  I think you can just make out one vacant spot in the first row and another in the last row where an airplane has torn free.  In this case the decals were from a now defunct company, SeaBat Decals, which offered quite an extensive array of hull and deck markings.  I’m curious to see if Tanners will be any different.

Minolta DSC

In the past I have tried to make my own decals for some of my modern ships.  For the JMSDF Ousumi from Viking Forge I actually purchased a 1/700 scale plastic model so I could get my hands on their decal sheet.  After scaling for 1/2400 I was able to use it as a template for my own simplified version with just the major deck lines.  Is that cheating?  The trouble is I don’t have a printer capable of printing white.  Using the next best alternative I used white decal paper overlaid with the deck color I had chosen.  This allows the white lines to show through where the deck color isn’t applied.  I was never able to achieve results better than ‘wargame’ quality.  The decal, especially white decal paper, has thickness and it was a thickness that was obvious at 1/2400 scale.  I’m very curious about how Tanner solved that problem or if he is just using a different decal paper.

So far I’m very impressed with his business.  I placed an order for the Aquila decal and the Graf Zeppelin decal as well.  Priced at $6.99 a piece, about 44% of the cost of the model itself, the price seems kind of high.  Admittedly I say that without having the product in hand to really evaluate it.  The catalog pictures look great so maybe it’ll be worth every penny.  The service after the sale has been outstanding so far.  In addition to the automatic order confirmation and shipping notices I received an email from Tanner himself thanking me and letting me know that my order was already shipped.  That was a nice touch.  Once they arrive I’ll have to break out the old ‘To Do’ box and finish up these models but that will be a future post…