Decals

I am still very  far from the finishing phase of my project but i’ve already been thinking of a decal representing U 48 emblem. It’s my idea to build the U-boat model as U 48 looked like when she sported the lateral air trunks on her tower sides, thus under the command of Rosing or Bleichrodt. After Bleichrodt won the knight’s cross the cat too was awarded  a knight’s cross but until then the emblem sported no crosses (window). After checking the amazing U-boat decals on the Accurate Model Parts site (http://amp.rokket.biz/decals.shtml), I wondered if I could have one custom-made for my project. I asked Dougie Martindale at AMP about the feasibility of my request (they are not set up to do custom decals for customers) and I was lucky enough that I happened to ask for a decal at the right time, when they had space left on a decal sheet they were about to produce. I am very grateful to Dougie for accepting the exceptional request and I congratulate with him for his top notch skills in research and design. The 8 decals (this is what I call generosity!) are very small, some 2 mm-big each and of course most of the details aren’t visible (by the way consider that my bare hand wouldn’t be up to the task of drawing such a small emblem). I am sure that I can field-modify the decals to some extent (by overpainting and chiseling) at the proper time to further improve their already excellent look. Their number is a safety margin for me to get an optimal result. Here they are:

Decals1

 

Tools

The Jigster

jigster

This small vise by Uschi van der Rosten is one of the best tools I’ve ever purchased. Stainless steel, allows to cut and refine styrene sheeths, rods and tubing both with a 90° and a 45° angulation. I’m currently using it to shape, carve and drill the gun’s breech (which you can see tightly held in the jigster’s arms in the above picture). Now that I have it, I don’t know what would I do without it. Bravo Uschi!

Uschi Drill Set

Uschidrill2

Another great piece of hardware produced by Uschi van der Rosten is the Pin Vise Spring Drill. I purchased it together with a set of drill bits ranging from 0.2 to 0.4 mm. The spring-actioned pin vise makes it very easy to drill small caliber holes quickly and effectively. Until now I have routinely drilled very small holes with the help of field-modified drill bits to limit the risk of breaking the bits’ ends (I basically glue the bits into a section of brass tubing which i use as a pin vise), but I found that the manipulation of the thinner bits is not optimal due to their small caliber. I pleasantly discovered that Uschi drill bits can also be easily handled without the Pin Vise Spring Drill since their proximal end is sufficiently wide to allow a good manipulation. I think I am going to embrace the innovation and not going back to my field-modified drill bits!

Uschidrill1

For more details about the jigster and the drill set check Uschi’s website: http://www.uschivdr.com/shopping-categories/shop-tools-hardware/ (by the way I’ve got no affiliation with Uschi, I am just a very satisfied customer)

Root canal files

kfiles

These files are made of a very flexible stainless steel and can be manipulated by the fingers to drill very small holes (down to 0.06, 0.08, 0,1 mm caliber!) without breaking, but also to carve and file very narrow crevices. Their main advantage, beside the small calibers available, is that they very seldom break  and due to their flexibility they bend instead of breaking. Anyway, in case of bending it’s possible to bring the files back to their original shape very easily by rolling them between two fingertips or under a metal ruler. The root canal files are medical devices designed for dental surgery and can be purchased in medical supply stores (I got mine from my dentist who had a few spares to hand. Am so very grateful to him). I think they are an essential tool for small scale scratchbuilding and for drilling those little holes needed to secure very small caliber wires, in any scale. Below, left-to-right: 0.06, 0,08, 0.1 and 0.15 mm root canal files and their handling.

Rootfiles4

Scribing Tool

Scribing tool

My favourite scribing tool: a field-modified ink nib from an old high-school divider set with an added full-metal round-headed pin. The pen-like shape allows an optimal manipulation, while the pin head and the nib screw avoid the pin dislocation. It works just fine and I can replace the pin once its tip is no longer sharp: cheap and cheerful.

Digital Caliper

caliper

An absolute must when dealing with small scale pieces. The digital display is straightforward to check and allows to measure the smallest dimensions with utmost precison. There are plenty of different quality digital calipers on the market. My advice is to choose a good quality, stainless steel one. Mine is not so cheap but very cheerful 🙂

The Chopper

chopper

No need for introductions here. An absolutely necessary tool for any kind of scratchbuilding. My friend E J Foeth from http://ontheslipway.com/ (his top notch work is most inspirational to me) very cleverly field-modified his Chopper to make its qualities shine, turning it into a razor-sharp, precise and immortal cutting weapon for advanced modelling. Check his amazing work of genius here:  http://ontheslipway.com/?cat=6&paged=2 . I am not ready yet to modify my Chopper because I am uncertain of the results i would achieve, but sooner or later i will take courage and do it.

Optivisor

optivisor

Something i couldn’t imagine to work without, the optivisor gets where your naked eye doesn’t.  I use a pair of DA-7 lenses (focal length 6′, 2.75 X magnification) and a monocular attachable lens that adds an extra 2.5 X to the DA-7 magnification. I use the monocle only for checking imperfections as i am unable to work without a stereoscopic vision. Further magnification and imperfection-checks are performed with the macro of a digital camera (mine is a not so expensive Ricoh WG-20 and works just fine). For more information: http://www.doneganoptical.com/products/optivisor

 

 

 

 

Image

8.8 cm/45 (3.46″) SK C/35 gun

The main anti-ship gun for type VII U-boats until 1943. U48 sported one on her foredeck for most of her service (war patrols and later as a schoolboat until 1943).

http://navweaps.com/Weapons/WNGER_88mm-45_skc35.htm http://uboat.net/technical/guns.htm

88a

The idea: the gun offered in the kit is rather inaccurate and its dimensions are more appropriate to represent the 10.5 cm gun of the type IX boats models (also produced by Mirage Hobby). I therefore decided to build U48 gun mostly from scratch (only keeping the original gun mount, appropriately reworked). My references for scratchbuilding the 8.8 cm gun are:

a)  The following books:

German Naval Guns 1939-1945 by Miroslaw Skwiot (a). The book is magnificent and a real must if you want to have an in-depth look to german naval armaments of WW2. It features detailed information, beautiful artworks, technical drawings and hundreds of fine pictures. Mr Skwiot is a real autohority on the subject.

Super drawings in 3D: The VIIC Type U-Boot by Waldemar Goralski and Mieczyslaw Jastrzebski, Kagero Publishing (b). A fine manual with noteworthy information and stunning 3D artworks by Waldemar Goralski.

U-Boot VII Vol.1 by Marek Krzysztalowicz, AJ- Press (c).  Great information, pictures and 3D artworks by Waldemar Goralski (“early” artworks when compared to the ones contained in Super drawings in 3D:The VIIC Type U-Boot but still beautiful artworks).

Diapositiva2a

b) The 54 mm kit “Type VIIC U-boat deck gun” by Andrea Miniatures (Ref S5-S10). An excellent kit that I have in my stash from the early 2000s, actually a Christmas present from my brother which I haven’t been able to build yet and which, am afraid, will wait long before being dealt with. Nowadays it helps me to understand the 3D shape of the gun and its details. And what an invaluable source of help! I have already measured and converted to 1/400 scale all the gun components and made an action plan (this says it all!): I will divide the gun in 5 different sub-assemblies: gun mount, barrel, breech, superstructure, lateral arms.

Diapositiva7

GUN MOUNT

I started my work by separating the gun mount from barrel, breech and superstructure (a), then I sanded away all the detail from the mount, carved it appropriately, filled a few holes/irregularities, reshaped the rear pedestal fairing with epoxy putty and added what I nicknamed the “lateral ears”, made from 0.2mm-thick/0.25 mm-wide styrene half disks (b,c). The “lateral ears” (aka the trunnions, as EJ Foeth – ontheslipway.com – kindly suggests me), were then shaped in situ with fine sandpaper. I finally drilled a few holes: the one on the frontside of the mount, for the tampion-holder (e), the one on the starboard side of the fairing (0.2 mm wide, cheeky monkey), (d) and the holes for the lateral arms, which must allow the lateral arms to be parallel to each other on both sides and to be perpendicular to the vertical axis of the mount (not an easy task) (f).

Diapositiva3a

One word about the rear pedestal fairing shape: according to M Skwiot there were three different versions of the rear fairing and I found evidence that U48 sported the fairing version pictured below  (“a” in the technical drawings)

fairing

thanks to details that I hunted down in two rare pictures of U48 (below, the magnified details):

Diapositiva11a

At the end of an endless work which lasted many hours/modelling sessions I test-fitted the gun mount on the Uboat foredeck  only to realize that it was over-dimensioned for 1/400 scale (so very bad of me). Luckily, in Revell 1/350 VIIC kit (also part of my stash) there was a gun which is slightly under-dimensioned for the 1/350 scale and looks much more proportioned for 1/400 scale than the Mirage Hobby part. I started all over again with the same process I illustrated above for the Mirage Hobby gun mount. Below, the carving/shaping process has just begun on the original part by Revell  (in the window):

newmount

and here’s the result of my work:

Diapositiva13a

mount2a

mount1a

The new and the old mount compared:

Diapositiva9a

The actual dimensions and the 1/400 mount compared to the 1/32 one by Andrea Miniatures:

Diapositiva8a

There’s still a lot to do before I can say the gun mount is completed but I am happy things have started to move again!! (to be continued)

Pedestal (November 2015)

A composition of telescopic tubing of different calibers and materials (a=0.7 mm/brass, c=0.9 mm/brass, d=1.2 mm/plastic) and an aluminium disc (b) were positioned on the Mirage Hobby PE representing the round bolted baseplate (f). I added the toothed rim (e) which i have worked out from a PE catwalk from L’Arsenal, adequately trimmed and filed. Below: the real thing  (window), the predestal alone (top left) and dry fitted to the deck’s anti-slip web PE from Mirage Hobby (bottom left). This is just a preliminary work and the parts are only dry-fitted. I think there’s still room for improvement and I am currently working on it, so stay tuned for a Part 2. (off the record: I am disappointed with the new WordPress policy of denying the uploading of clickable images that can be enlarged to their bigger original size)

pedestaldef

Pedestal Part 2 (December 2015/January 2016)

After two months of hard work am finally happy to show you the improvement I had promised: the toothed ring (?should i call it the pedestal toothed fairing) was improved, the bolted baseplate was sanded flat and the pedestal was drilled twice. It took more time than I had originally thought (2 months!) because of the few modelling sessions i was conceded by work (an average of 4 per month) but most of all because the toothed ring was extremely difficult to make and when I had completed (an almost perfect) one, it pinged off to feed the monster carpet, causing a major blow to my morale (hehehe Yess!) and I had to start all over again. Let’s see the improvement in detail.

Toothed fairing. Curiosity: the real pattern of the “teeth” was somewhat peculiar. The “teeth” were arranged in groups of three at the cardinal points (picture below,aovals + b,c) and there was only one “tooth” per quadrant (asquare + b,c) for a total of 16 teeth distributed all along the circumference of the fairing. Miroslaw Skwiot gives the correct pattern in a technical drawing shown in his magnificent book. I verified the correctness of the pattern studying many original photos (it was particularly hard to find pictures showing the “triplets” at 3 and 9, but i eventually found a pair, carrow) and thought to share this information to provide a handy tip to those modellers who want to represent faithfully the gun in bigger scales (I am thinking of 1/72, 1/32 scale and the recent 1/48 U-boat releases), since the toothed fairing is a detail often ignored by many modellers. No, I am not that insane to reproduce the exact teeth pattern in the 400th scale (even if by mere chance I got very close to it! 🙂 )

Toothedfairing

The toothed fairing was made from a section of 0.08mm-thin brass net by Flyhawk, which was filed-to-size and shaped over a drill bit to obtain a ring of 1.5 mm. The height of the teeth is 0.06mm and so is the one of the frame, for a complexive height of 0.12 mm. I added two 0.08 mm-thick/0.13 mm-tall styrene crescents at 12 and 6. They were thermo-formed over a 1.5 mm drill bit and given a sloping lateral profile. The gluing phase was the most difficult part of the work and obtaining a stable joint without the bulking effect of the glue was particularly tricky. Unfortunately I had no luck with extra-thin CA and the pieces were eventually glued with diluted Gator’s Grip glue after several attempts.

toothedring

rings

Then, I sanded off the bolts from the outer ring of the round brass baseplate (above, right) to make sure to have an even surface for gluing the toothed fairing.

Finally I drilled two 0.15 mm holes on the 0.3 x 1.2 mm plastic tube representing the pedestal. The Jigster and the canal root files allowed me to obtain a smooth result.

015hole

In fact there’s photographic evidence that there were two holes on U 48 pedestal at 4-5-ish and 7-8-ish. It’s been speculated that the holes were meant to allow lubrication of the pedestal mechanism, since they were provided with caps that had probably been removed or gone missing on U 48 (you can follow the research behind this finding in my U 48 thread on the AMP forum: http://models.rokket.biz/index.php?topic=858.0).

pedestalholes

I test-fitted all the components of the pedestal to have an idea of the result, which I think is way better than the initial work.

completepedestal

LATERAL ARMS

The 8.8cm gun had two couples of lateral arms:

gun1

two “Controls and Gearing arms” for the elevation and traversing control wheels (a); two arms (b) from which the braces for the elevator’s safety harness (c) and the traverse number’s safety harness (d) branched. Each of these braces had “Lambda” joints and “T” joints (circled). I started my work from the braces (c,d) and precisely from the Lambda joints. First of all i brought to 1/400 scale the dimensions of arms and braces. Without giving in to AMS (Advanced Modelling Syndrome which, am afraid to admit, has been affecting me for a looong time) a suitable caliber to represent the “controls and gearing arms” (a) in the 1/400 scale can be 0.3 mm and 0.25 mm for the  lower arms (b). 0.3 mm (brass or other alloy) tubing are the smallest tubing you can get on the market. I chose Albion Alloys brass tubes, which have an inner diameter of 0.12 mm, they are an excellent product. Since 0.25 mm tubing are absent from the market I had to obtain them from 0.3 mm tubing by reducing their caliber. I used a cheap supermarket diamond file which I rolled over a tubing section placed on an old CD. The tubes must be fitted with a 0.1 mm rod, to avoid their deformation. Remember to wear a facemask and disposable gloves, and to wash  file and CD with soap when you have finished. The tubing can be reduced to an even caliber by rolling the file over the entire tubing surface with a left-to-right motion. (the tubing in the pictures is bigger than 0.3 cal  for demonstration purposes). I warn you, the procedure is long and tedious, so arm yourself with patience; the technique, on the contrary, is effective to get the desired result.

mat

red

This way i obtained smaller caliber tubing sections for the lower arms and lambda joints (0.24 mm), which I  cut to size and  then soldered. In the picture below: 0.3 mm brass tubing (a);  0.1 mm rod (b) to represent the braces;  0.20-something mm brass rod obtained from 0.25 mm rod to fit Albion Alloys 0.4 mm-cal tubing (d); 0.24 mm-cal tubing obtained from the reduction of 0.3 mm tubing (c), then cut-to-size (window) and reduced to desired length by filing (the entire process of caliber reduction + cutting/filing-to-size is time consuming and rather boring).

mtbs

cal

One word about the “Lambda joints”: the angle between the branches of the joints is 60° in the technical drawings, 3-D artworks and original U48 pictures (a propos of pics, a Thousand Thanks Dougie Martindale!).

df latarms

I am still a bit puzzled about the angle of the “Lambda-joints” for the traverse number safety harness brace: while the artworks show an angle of 60°, a close-up pic from U48 seems to show a steeper angle, but perspective might be deceptive in this case. In any case, consider an hypotetical steeper angle for that brace if you plan to make one and let me know what are your conclusions about that. I sticked to the artworks and soldered all the four “Lambda-joints” with an angle of 60°.

df la5

The soldering of the “Lambda joints” is one of the most difficult modelling tasks I was ever faced with. I used the “hot-blower and Koki solder paste technique” very well described and perfectioned by “Siara” Musialek and Glenn Cauley (check their outstanding modelling threads on the AMP forum: models.rokket.biz). I use a cheap butane blower, although I recently purchased the Dremel Versatip butane soldering iron, but i haven’t used that yet.

solder

My faliure/success ratio in soldering very small parts with an angle of 60° with this technique is about 5 failures/1 success and that’s very frustrating because every time you fail you have to file-to-size the sections + align them properly time and again,  and this alone requires time.  The result of my work:

lambda

I know, the joints are not 100% perfect, but consider that the camera magnification is merciless, and bear in mind that the joints are barely visible to the naked eye, even at close distance (and even with an optivisor). I think what matters is giving an idea of what you are trying to represent. After all, aren’t we modellers  some of  the finest cheaters?  I think i will ignore my AMS for once, the risk of re-doing the entire process is to get bogged-down by the lambda joints for an indefinite time and not move forward. (to be continued)

lambda1

Safety harnesses and vertical braces (May 2015)

The vertical sections of the “T-joints” come from 0.25 mm-long sections of 0.21-0.22 mm-cal brass tubing. Obtaining a smaller caliber than 0.21-0.22 mm (from the original 0.3 mm) through reduction proved to be impossible: the tubes have their-own breaking  point and when this is reached they just disintegrate under the file. The end-run sections are just o.15 mm long and preparing them was pretty painful. The picture below shows the sections dry-fitting 0.1 mm-cal rods. They will be assembled properly and glued to the harnesses once the rest of the gun is done, to make sure the correct proportions are respected.

vert3a

The safety harnesses come from two lateral sections of 0.23 mm-cal brass rod, appropriately bent and shaped through filing, glued to a central section of 0.2 mm-cal rod. Yes, glued, i didn’t want to take my chances on soldering this time. Preparing the parts was very time consuming and a bad soldering would have meant starting all over again with the preparation phase (and an almost-sure nervous breakdown). I used very thin Rocket CA glue and reinforced the joints with diluted Gator’s Grip glue. The picture makes them appear more bulky than they really are.

harnesses

Sh

(to be continued)

“Lower” lateral arms (12/03/2015)

lowerlatarms

I managed to solder 0.25 mm-cal tubing sections approximately 1 mm-long  with 0.24 mm-cal sections 0.3 mm-long  to obtain the arms (which, i must say, are almost invisible). This time I was lucky: only 1 failure and 2 successes with soldering! After soldering I polished the joints with fine sandpaper and test-fiitted the arms to the gun mount, just to get an idea of the result. Not bad at all! Wish I had some 0.2 mm cal tubing with an internal lumen of 0.1 mm though, the final outcome would have looked perfect.

lla1

lla2

lla3

Controls and Gearing arms (10/04/2015)

0.25 mm-Cal sections, 0.25 mm-long (these were tough to make!) were soldered to 0.3 mm-Cal tubing (slightly longer than the needed length of 0.7 mm, just to make the handling easier) with the usual technique. Two failed attempts, 2 successful soldering this time. Unfortunately I had to solder the brace for the traversing control wheel to the traversing arm and to the elevation arm to avoid dealing with a possible solder-related clogging of the traversing arm lumen. Nevermind, the control wheel brace will be trimmed to the correct length afterwards, and the elevation arms will be trimmed-to-size by filing after proper test-fitting to the gun mount. The distance between the outer margin of the traversing arm and the distal edge of the elevation arm (arrow, a) varies from a few tenths of a millimeter to nil depending on what reference source you follow (artworks by Goralsky, (a); artworks/technical drawings by Skwiot (b); Andrea Miniatures kit (c)) . Original pics don’t help much, since that area was rarely pictured from a close distance with the right angulation. I soldered the tubing sections with virtually no distance betweeen the edges but I  am tempted to add a 0.13 mm-thick roundel at the end of the main arm, I’ll think it over.. In the meanwhile enjoy the result!

Upperarms3

Upperarms1

Upperarms2

Handwheels (28/03/2015)

The elevation and traversing control wheels should have a diameter of approximatively 0.6 to 0.7  mm, depending on what reference source you follow. I had taken for granted that I could use some photoetched handwheels included in a set by Tauro Model but unfortunately size doesn’t always match with quality:  the smallest handwheels in the set are thick and coarse (a). Since designing my own PEs with Autocad to have them produced elsewhere is something I am still unable to do (but I will in my next life, promised), I decided to make my own wheels from old-fashioned scratch after performing a feasibility study. Using copper wire and a cross-shaped section of fine brass railing to obtain a “full-metal” wheel doesn’t allow to reach a convincing result (b); reducing the size of the cross arms through filing is very time consuming; soldering is not an option either: I tried and it’s just not feasible with the soldering technique I commonly use. Gluing is the only other possibility left. I used Gator’s Grip glue successfully. In the end I decided to use a  cross-shaped section of fine plastic net  that I obtained from a ribbon, which I glued into a roundel made with 0.1 mm copper wire (c). Once I realized the feasibility of this technique I opted for 0.6mm diameter roundels made with 0.08mm-thick copper wire (d). The technique is straight forward: put the small cross (appropriately trimmed to fit into the roundel) into the roundel and apply a drop of very diluted Gator’s Grip glue with a fine pointed brush, “sucking” off the excess of glue with a thin strip of blotting paper. Gator’s Grip Glue is just amazing, fast drying and with a good bonding quality. Non toxic, thins with water, dries to a completely transparent finish.

handwheels1

I am pleased with the result. I managed to make eleven wheels in an afternoon (the same amount of time I spent for making just one “full-metal” wheel). I will choose the best 4 of them for the Controls and Gearing Arms. Notice the residuals of glue in some wheels, they are completely transparent and invisible to the naked eye, however i’ll try to clean them up. The wheels still miss their knobs, that will be added in due course. Below, the actual dimensions.

handwheel

(to be continued)

Recoil tray

recoi1

I made the recuperators from 2 x 0.3 mm-cal brass tubing sections which were separated by an interposed brass railing section. The three pieces were soldered together with the usual technique to obtain the tray.  The tubing sections were then fitted with 0.1 mm wire and the tips of the recuperators were shaped with Tamiya epoxy putty (arrow). I painted the recoil tray with diluted Gators’ Grip just to make sure the putty tips are secured properly to the rest of the tray. This caused some debris to form (invisible to the naked eye but clearly visible on the magnified image at the left end of the cylinders),which has already been taken care of.

recoil3

recoil2

Recoil tray take two (Oct 2015)

After a forced stop due to an unusually hot summer and too much hospital work I am finally back. Re-did the recoil tray since test-fitting the one I had  already completed to the gun mount proved to be unsuccessful due to a few tenths of mm too many (the soldering was too bulky and made the tray too wide). This time I spaced the recuperators with a 0.13 mm styrene spacer, gluing the ensamble with Gator’s Grip glue. Here’s the result:

Recuperators1

recuperators

BREECH 

Part 1 (November 2015)

A piece of styrene measuring 1 x 1.3 x 1.5 mm was cut, shaped, drilled and carved to represent the main frame of the breech. The most difficult part was shaping the U-shaped breech ring and the housing for the breech-block. I corrected minor errors with epoxy putty which was preferred to toluene-based fillers because of the potential risk to melt or deform the flimsy walls of the breech housing from the use of the latters. The breech still needs to be completed with the breech block (am studying the feasibility of making one), various levers and rods and the fore top fairing, which i hope I’ll be able to complete soon.  The preliminary results:

Breech2

Breech1

Part 2 (February to April 2016)

I’ve been through difficult times lately and now I am slowly recovering. The last few months saw just a handful of modelling sessions during which i was able to sculpt a breech block from a very thin strip of styrene (0.3 x 0.3 x 0.5 mm) to fit the breech block housing. I have also drilled very small holes onto the breech sides to host the various levers/rods that were there in reality. Drilling holes in the right places on such a small surface proved to be quite a task and more than once I had to fill the misplaced holes with epoxy putty, wait for the putty to cure, sand the repair flat and then re-drill the holes until I was satisfied (a pretty silly work). It took time (no pictures available at the moment, I’ll shoot some as soon as I am able to complete the breech top fairing). Am afraid to tell you that I am facing another forced stop of my project due to “real life interfering with progress” once again. No worries I won’t give up, I’ll be back  at it sooner or later. In the meanwhile enjoy my meager progress:

breechblock1

breechblock2

Part 3 (April 2017)

Hi, it’s been a while. I’ve not been well and am just recovering from an operation. The pros: i have some more spare time to reconcile with modelling. When i was unwell and in an hospital bed i thought i really had to start working again on my project and and try not to leave it unfinished. So: the shipyard is open again (?should i say the gun factory 🙂 ) and some little steps forward have been made. I added some details to the breech (port side: 0.05mm copper rod trimmed and shaped, starboard side: 0.08mm rod), which have been dry-fitted for scenic purposes. The port side lever will be trimmed a bit and the other flat detail aft of it added. The horrific hole has already been taken care of. Well, i hope to be back on track, but i wouldn’t bet all my money on that. I’ll try my best to keep this project alive, health and spare time permitting. Glad to be back! Enjoy the results:

breechdetailsdef

Breech fairing (April 2017)

The breech fairing had several subvariants: “squared” (a), “multi-faceted” (b), “flattish” (c) etc, as i had the chance to observe in the hundreds of pictures i have studied. There are different possibilities to build one from scratch but in the 400th-scale priority must be given to materials causing less bulking effect, thus narrowing down to three different materials: styrene sheets (minimum thickness 0.13 mm), CA-soaked paper (about 0.1 mm thick, it can be sanded to some extent) and aluminium foil (0.01mm-thick). I opted for aluminium and managed to cut a trapezoid to represent the fairing. I found that working with aluminium in such a small dimension and thickness is pretty difficult because alu gets crumpled or perforated very easily by tweezers and blade. So, not many chances to craft the subvariants of the fairing but rather trying to make do with what you get. Making and bending the lateral “wings” was particularly tricky.

bfdef1

Here you can see the actual dimensions of the fairing dry-fitting the breech. The fairing will be given a sloping angulation of the forward free-end once the breech is connected to the barrel. The arrow points out the fore hole on the starboard side of the breech which was moved forward to get a look closer to the real thing.

F2def

BARREL (April 2017)

The 8.8 cm tube had a slight variation of the outer profile with a decrease in size at the middle-last section of the barrel and a sloping slight increase in diameter at the muzzle. The scale effect must be considered here, because as you may see in the pictures below, the caliber of the tube looks like it’s even and perfectly cylindrical when seen from a distance, something to be kept in mind when dealing with small scales such as the 400th.

88

I used three telescopic sections of Albion Alloys brass tubing  with a caliber of 0.4, 0.6 and 0.8 mm, measuring different lengths that were taken according to the technical drawings by Miroslaw Skwiot. The bottom surface of the bigger section was sanded flat to host the recoil tray (a), and the middle section was left slightly longer than the actual dimensions to connect to the breech and host a perforated ring which was present just fore of the breech. I crafted 2 different rings: a brass ring some 0.25 mm-long obtained from the fret “1/700 perforated beams” from L’Arsenal (b,c) and a thinner 0.18-ish mm-long ring obtained from 0.01mm-thin aluminium foil (d) which i perforated with a 0.06 dental root file. The alu ring is really flimsy and difficult to manipulate as it is nearly invisible. I still have to choose between the two. I like the clearly-visible holes on the brass ring but the bigger dimensions of it when compared to the alu ring just got me thinking.

barrel1

(to be continued)

2cm MG C/30 anti-Aircraft gun

The standard anti-aircraft defensive weapon of early-war type VII U-boats: http://navweaps.com/Weapons/WNGER_20mm-65_c30.htm http://www.steelnavy.com/WEM400GermanAA.htm http://www.uboat.net/technical/flak.htm

mg301s1 s2

Starting with the WEM PE  as a base which acted as a template for the main body of the gun, I scratchbuilt the rest of the gun with 0.13mm styrene, stretched sprue (barrel, top of the gun’s main body and sight “phi-shaped” mount , barely visible in the pictures), 0.13mm copper wire and pieces of super-thin 1/700 PE railings from L’Arsenal. The 21 (!) pieces were assembled mainly w CA and there are also two micro-welds. I built the gun in 2011. I had decided to start my project from the most difficult parts of the kit (the 2cm and 8.8 gun) and to date am still stuck with them(!). I am sorry for I didn’t take WIP shots of the gun at the time as I hadn’t thought I would keep a photographic diary of my project back then. Enjoy the final result.

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Below, “The Three Amigos” (from L to R): WEM PE, my AA gun and the one by Mirage Hobby.

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As you probably noticed I omitted the muzzle brake since I think that the small scale (or should I say my dexterity?) doesn’t allow to reproduce it in a convincing way without hampering the final result. Fortunately there’s photographic evidence of operational use of C/30s without the muzzle brake. The picture below shows an MG C/30 operating without it: I am happy and in peace with my decision 🙂 .

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The kit

box

Mirage Hobby 1 400 – U 84 VIIB German Submarine (Ref MIR40410)
A release from the early 2000s, the kit is very easy to build and a good base for superdetailing. The grey plastic responds well to carving, drilling, sanding and scribing. Main flaws: lack of detail. Torpedo doors missing, aft torpedo tube non-existent (not even the concavity in the hull), weld lines on saddletanks and lower hull missing. Turret details: minimal. 8.8 gun over-dimensioned (in common with the IX boat series also produced by Mirage-Hobby and thus looking more similar to the 10.5 cm than to the 8.8. 20 mm AA gun: awful. Decks: forget about them. Only one lateral air trunk provided (I keep asking myself why all the main brands keep on doing the same mistake, the lateral trunks were bilateral!). Pros: its small dimensions and correct looking-shape. Nice flooding holes pattern (some minor corrections needed). I apologise for the poor quality of the picture but don’t worry we’ll see the kit details one by one at each step of the building.

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Aftermarket:

Mirage Hobby U-Boot VIIB submarine Photo-Etched set 1/400 (Ref MIR009-40410). To improve the U-boat plastic kits and kick them to a good level of detail, Mirage Hobby produced high quality PE frets for each of its type VII kits. At the time I bought mine they were sold separately from the plastic kits. Nowadays they are included in most of them. The PEs are wonderful, very thin and detailed: they really complete the plastic model, helping to achieve a very convincing final look. Only some minor flaws to be corrected.

PEs

Tom Modelworks produces dedicated PEs (Ref nr 4019) for all the main type VII versions produced by Mirage Hobby… and the good thing is that you get all the PEs needed for each variant (B, C turm 0, II and IV) in a single brass fret, which is inexpensive and a pretty good deal! A most clever idea. Although the quality is not as high as the PEs released by Mirage Hobby, they are a very nice complement to them since they also feature rudders and diving planes. For a great review about them go at: http://www.steelnavy.com/TomsTypeVII400.htm

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L’Arsenal PE perforated catwalks (Ref AC 700 24): a real jewel. After searching and searching I came to the conclusion that the 1/700 catwalks are more suitable than their 1/400 brothers to fit the turret and wintergarden deck of a 1/400 U-boat model. The finesse of the pattern is unbeatable and there’s nothing else around better than them to reproduce the perforated catwalks used on U-boats turret decks: I have tried a wide range of micro-nets from the most different origins (steel and alloy micro-nets, plastic tea bags, plastic and canvas ribbons, aluminuim packagings with the most bizarre checkered patterns, etc) and none equals L’Arsenal 1/700 perforated catwalks. Masterpiece. I ordered mine directly at L’Arsenal website, together with many other 1/400 and 1/700 PE sets and railings from l’Arsenal and White Ensign Models to be used as source of materials for scratchbuilding. I must say that quality from both L’Arsenal and WEM is really high, details are great and the PEs are very well designed and thin. Also, L’Arsenal Staff is very kind and professional and the entire mailing order/shipping process is flawless. I wish to thank specifically Monsieur Jacques Druel at l’Arsenal for the kindness and savoire-faire shown on several occasions. An Outstanding Gentleman. All my gratitude to him.

Arsenal perf cat2

WEM 1/400 Kriegsmarine anti-aircraft guns PE set (Ref WEM PE 4006). Top marks. Here’s a very nice review about them: http://www.steelnavy.com/WEM400GermanAA.htm . You’ll see how the 2 cm MG C/30 AA gun can be improved to a more realistic 3-D finish later on.

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