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USS Essex 1:350 Trumpeter Build

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  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Thursday, January 25, 2018 6:58 PM

The Iowas were amazing vessels. I still think they're the handsomest battleships ever created. They had balance, the extra 200+ feet to give them speed also gave them a greyhound look. They sat low in the water and looked liked they were moving when standing still. 

I'm still working on building 40mm mounts. I'm getting better at this, but it's still a challenge. Believe it or not, the most challenging aspect is not the PE. It's the AM-Works very brittle 40mm guns. They're breaking faster than I can replace them. I've written them this morning and they're sending me more guns. I hope it will be enough.

Sometimes I know when I break them. Then there are those, like this one, that broke and I didn't know when. You can't fix them. You have to break out the old gun and replace it. I find the old Tamiya styrene ones, while lacking the detail of the flash hider and recoil spring, are softer and will bend before breaking. I only have a few more old Tamiya barrels left. With the new ones from AM-Works, I may be able to finish the 12 sets needed for the Essex.

I tried another approach to holding the shield still while I soldered it to the mount. I stuck the little brass tails into the surface of my soldering block. It worked... but...

It placeed the shield too low on the mount. I used this one, but had to cut the tails off so it would sit on the deck correctly. I then resorted to holding the piece in my hand as I clamped on the RSU. I was able to solder it so quickly that I didn't even burn my fingers. Perhaps a little more about my American Beauty Resistance Soldering System may be of some value.

Mine is a hobby unit, about 250 watts. I have both a Tweezer hand piece and a single electrode with ground clamp. I've only used the single electrode piece once since it's large and I'm always doing pretty small work.

The power unit is a transformer that turns 110 VAC down to 3 VAC. As we know about transforming electricity, when the voltage goes down, the current goes up and vice versa, so the system generates about 50 or more amps. When you pass high current through a less-than-perfect conducting metal, you get heat... lots of heat... and quickly. Since the heat occurs between the tweezer points it is highly localized. If you get the current knob adjusted to the right amount for the size of the material you're soldering, the joint can be made in a few seconds.

The tweezer electrodes are copper-jacketed stainless steel. I just found that out today. I thought they were carbon. The single electrode hand piece is carbon. You can bend the tips somewhat to get them to grip correctly, but they can side slip which makes holding the parts very difficult. My electrode set screws were camming out (the phillips head slots were disappearing) and due to the repeated heating and cooling, the screws work loose and you start having trouble getting a circuit. I wrote them today and they're sending me new screws and new electrodes. They're a nice to work with and it's made in the USA.

All of this is controlled by a foot switch. You clamp the joint, step on the switch, watch the solder melt, and release the switch still holding the clamp until it cools. 

My RSU is one of my most expensive tool purchases. The other is my Taig Lathe. It has enabled me to do solder joints that are difficult or impossible usng an iron, and it's ready instantly. It doesn't have to warm up and you don't need to tin the tips. You do have to occassionally hit the tips to remove any char that develops. This one is a hobby version and is about $500. They go up into the low thousands for industrial kilowatt units for doing production work. You can even do brazing with one of the units since it generates enough heat. If you ever have the desire to work in metals to build models, an RSU is pretty much a necessary tool.

I've got five more 40mm guns sets to produce. I may put them aside when I run out of gun barrels and wait for the AM-Works replenishment to come. I'm still waiting for the GMM order.

My friend in Albuquerque is producing a nice routed-edge oak display board for me and I made contact today with a local company that can cut the acrylic sheet for the showcase. I did my own cutting for the Missouri's case and it wasn't pretty. I used the score-a-line- about-half-the-thickness-and-snap method. Sometimes it snapped and sometimes it cracked. Like I said, not pretty. I want the pieces professionally cut and edge finished and I'll glue it all together.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Friday, January 26, 2018 7:42 PM

I worked two hours to produce one very distressed 40 mount. Almost everything that could go wrong did, but I persisted and created one more 40. The side railings fell off on one side and I had to solder on a small brass bracket made out of the extra fret material. After soldering on the one side, I realize that this was more secure method of fastening on the shield and did it for the other side. During all this handling the back railing fell off. I had a fret of 40mm back railings that I got from GMM in the mid 1980s. The problem here is it was even too small a surface area to solder so I resorted to CA. It took at least 10 minutes to finally get it to stick enough that I could go back and add more to reinforce the joint. I finally got the guns on and had to go and take my grandson to tennis practice.

I also had one of the gun trunions fall off the workbench proper and hit the sliding belly tray I built to catch errant PE parts from disappearing. And of course this part disappeared. It just dropped 3 inches, but that's all it takes to go into the quantum rift. You'd think when something crosses the inter-dimensional barrier you see a flash or a puff of smoke as it disappears, like in a Harry Potter movie. But no... this part just silently vanishes. I swept the whole area for at least 10 sq ft, but nothing. I'm critically short of this particular Eduard PE part, and this doesn't help. 

I'm optimistic that I will come back on Monday and it will be sitting in the center of the belly tray. I've had that happen before. They disappear inter-dimensionally and then reappear a day later right in front of my eyes. 

So here're three 40mm mounts all different. The one in front is Eduard plus Tamiya guns, the middle is all Alliance Model Works, and the back is Eduard mostly, Alliance guns and GMM back railing. It's all mix and match. Lucky for me, enclosed in a plexiglass case, you won't be able to put a magnifying glass up to it to really see the difference. They'll all be painted and detailed and that will be that.

One more thing. I think I figured out why AM-Works PE is so difficult to process. The brass is only 0.004" thick. That's basically a piece of paper. Then they etch the bend lines, which makes them probably 0.002". Metal that thin unless dead soft is so fragile as to be unworkable. No wonder the brass breaks when it's still on the fret. I hope GMM is a bit more robust. By comparison, Eduard is 0.010" thick and 0.005 at the etched bends and it was very fragile also, but mostly workable.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, January 26, 2018 8:08 PM

This is very nice work. I've got two going- the Lex and the Hornet. They've gone together in very different ways, however it can't be stressed how much extra care is needed to assemble all of the hangar deck elements. If it isn't done with real accuracy, the problems on the flight deck and up from there are multipliers. 

I glued together the flight deck sections on both before attaching the one, the Lex, to the hull. I almost wonder if it might have been easier to add them one at a time. 

This is a really interesting WIP. You've gone the extra distance to document it, and thank you for that. I'm not saying it should be the plan, but it would be interesting to see a model with aviewable hangar deck with extra aircraft in the overhead.

Correct about Morrison's Third Law.


  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Monday, January 29, 2018 6:04 PM

Thanks Bill. I too have been thinking about gluing the flight decks together and reinforcing the joints. I think this could be necessary since I will have a ton of PE to add with the GMM regular and extra sets with catwalks and galleries hanging under the flight decks.

I finished all the 40mms, but will have to go back and replace gun barrels when the extra set from AW-Works arrives. I suspect Alliance Model Works is a Chinese company since I can't find a mailing address anywhere on their website AND the fellow who corresponded had a Chinese name and English was not his native language. I ran out of AMW guns, my scaped ones from the old Missouri and resorted to making the kit's guns work on the last mount. That last mount will have a barrel change along with the others that have any broken guns.

I duplicate this post on the Modeler's corner and one of the readers suggested a way to handle that very flimsy rail that just sticks out to nothing. He suggested bending the side rail towards the free rail and tacking them together using Future Floor Wax. I chose to use the nuclear option and actually solder that tiny joint. I did it successfully two times and made two more AMW 40mm mounts, then I went back to using the remaining Eduard PE left over from the Missouri project.

Here's the part held in a spring tweezers and then in my Panavise showing the single rail in position to be soldered. The part is so frail that it's almost always deformed. I bend it every time I touch it.

Instead of using the RSU I chose to use my Weller soldering iron. I also violated my own soldering rules by, after fluxing the joint, to move a tiny quantity of solder from the iron's tip directly to the junction. The RSU's tweezers are just too clumsy to get neat that tiny joint.

Here's the joint actually soldered. It doesn't hold and better than any adhesive given the cross-sectional area.

Here's the entire base soldered and put back in reasonable form. It got distorted many times more as I glued it into place. The shield was not soldered in this case since it's connected to a resin casting, not a PE piece like Eduard uses.

Remember me talking about one of the trunions hitting the floor and disappearing into the quantum rift? Well... in this case, it disappeared under the wheel of my desk chair. Road Kill! It's not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last. And it's certainly not the worst. The worst was when the Missouris SK main radar antenna (completely finished) got rolled over and turned to a flat mess. I had the extra set of Eduard and made another, but it did not turn out as good as the first one.

With that, I'm done with 40s for a while. I started working on the 5inch dual Mark 38 turrets. Trumpeter's aren't bad, but I had a ton of PE enhancements from the Missouri build and wanted to add them to these units. The enhancements include PE back hatch doors, ladders, commanders flash shield on the roof, and optical range finder outer doors. I scraped off the molded on back doors to accept the PE versions.

I then tried to do a silly thing... drill out a scale gun bore. It scales out to 0.014" and I have that drill size. Of course, I did one correctly, and then broke the next one, not when drilling, but when attempting to remove the sprue nubs. Then I lost another barrel to the rift, so right now I'm short one full set for one of the four turrets. I have all the Mark 38s from the old Missouri. I like the Tamiya barrels better since they're not so clunky. I don't want two different kinds of turrets even though they're very similar, the barrel thickness will be noticeable (to me at least). I'll build the three with the Trumpeter turrets and make a decision. I'm also toying with the idea of substituting brass barrels for the lot of them.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 9:01 PM

I awoke today thinking about making my own brass 5" Mark 38 guns to replace the plastic ones. I know there are commercial parts available, but I wanted to give it a try before shelling out more $$$. First I needed to figure out just how big these things are in 1:350. I found some good imagery on the web showing some major dimensions. I printed it out and measured the actual dimension on paper and divided that into the dimension noted on the drawing. The one I chose was the distance from the center of each bore to the centerline of the mount. It was 42". I doubled this to 84" which is the center-to-center distance between the guns. The scaling factor came out to 37.5. I measured the barrel's o.d. at the muzzle and where the recoil slide begins, and found that a piece of 0.032" brass rod is the right size for the larger diameter. The diameter at the muzzle is 0.024" in 1:350.

I chucked the brass rod in my Dremel flexi-shaft held in my Panavise. The vise was held with some quick clamps to keep it from moving around.

First I thought (incorrectly) that I would have to machine the metal off to make the taper so I chucked a small diamond-coated burr into my second Dremel tool and worked the two spinning tools together. This proved to be overkill. I quickly ground right through the piece. So I scraped that idea and went to Plan B, using a small file and sanding stick to reduce the diameter while the flex-shaft was running at medium speed. A light touch up with 600 grit emery finished it off.

The results were promising. I set my digital caliper to the 0.024" muzzle diameter and checked the size as it reduced. 

I removed the old barrels from an old Missouri 5" mount and carefully leveled the stub remaining. I pin pricked the center, drilled a pilot hole with a #80 drill and then opened up the hole with a 0.032" drill. Then I tried my barrels on. 

Results were very acceptable. So I finished up another 7 to give me 9 guns (I need 8 for the four twin mounts). Glad I did, because I promptly launched one out the needle nosed pliers. 

The only thing I haven't done is drill the 0.014" bore hole. I've thought about it, and if it was styrene wouldn't hesitate in doing it, but in brass, it's a totally different animal. Carbide drills tend to grab in brass. When they grab, they break and you have a hole with a chunk of difficult-to-remove carbide in it.

These barrels look so nice I may make them for the four open 5" since mounts. It only takes a minute of so to make a gun now that I have the routine down.

Tomorrow I'll build the remaining 5" mounts with the new guns installed. Then I'll start the single mounts, but I'm may be stymied since I'm waiting for that Total Navy GMM order, and I thing there's some PE details in there for these open mounts.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 6:51 PM

Built all the twin and single fives today. All the PE you see in this image is left over from the second Eduard Missouri PE set. I especially like those little hatches that are on the trainer's/pointer's/checker's telescope hoods. I lost one of the kit's 5" guns which I needed to provide the mantlet to which to mount the new gun. Luckily, the kit mantlet is 0.040" and that's a nice Evergreen styrene thickness of which I have some. So I made another little mantlet and drilled it like the others for the new barrel.

Notice the white t-shirt that's now covering my pull-out belly board. I don't know why I didn't think about this five years ago. Not only did I not lose a single piece of very small PE, the t-shirt cotton traps and holds the PE and it stands out very clearly, especially for those ladders and the hatch covers. The excess t-shirt was bunched over the edge and further blocked that channel to the workshop floor.

Does anyone know why PE will stick to my tweezers/fingers in deference to sticking to the model where it belongs. I'm constantly cleaning the tips becuase even a microscopic bit of wet CA will hold the PE. It gets very exasperating.

I did drill out the bores on the plastic 5" single open mounts. It's not hard. The key is getting the first pin *** as close to dead center as possible, then drilling slowing and checking in both directions to ensure you're going in parallel to the bore. You don't need to go in far, just far enough to show black. I thought about doing this on the brass barrels, but it wouldn't work. I found Master Model brass barrels that are drilled for a little over $12 plus shipping, but I'm glad I did my own. They also made 40mm barrels which are also drilled. They're really nice, but I coldn't figure out how they'd work with the plastic receivers. Something to think about on my next big 1:350 boat project.

Incidentally, that hole is the correct size for the scale using a #80 (0.014") drill. The plastic barrels are too thick.

So all the fives are now done and these singles are waiting for the GMM PE to arrive. I'm sure there are added railings that will enhance these. Master Model also makes a stunning resin/brass open 5" mount. Again... next time... maybe.

I started building the island late in the afternoon. Fit was so-so and it needed a little cleanup. I found a box of spring clips upstairs in the computer room desk and put them to use today holding these parts during gluing. I drilled out the portholes, but couldn't open any WTDs since I don't have any more left over from the Missouri. I like how the open doors look, and am thinking about any other ways to show them. Unfortunately, the backsides of these doors does not look like the front side, So I just can't make a hole next to the door.

Tomorrow I'll continue adding plastic to the island. This too is directly impacted by waiting for the GMM PE. I don't know if replacing the molded on ladders is necessary. They're in pretty good relief. I have ladder stock to use if I go that route.

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 8:23 PM

Builder 2010
I thought about doing this on the brass barrels, but it wouldn't work.

Well, if it's any relief, USN puts a tompion (& muzzle cover) on any rifle with a bore 3" or larger.

So, to sacle, you'd not see a hole, unless General Quarters had been called away

Which would want a hundred teeny tiny figures or more Smile

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Thursday, February 01, 2018 5:19 PM

That makes total sense. Just got the word that my GMM stuff is on the way, and just in time too.

Built the island as far as I'm willing to go before having the PE and the instructions in my hand. For example, I'm thinking about building all the masting in brass (as I did in the Missouri) to ensure they stay together and so I can solder the PE antennas to them when warranted. I did decide to chisel off all the molded-on ladders and will put PE ladders on.

The island needed a little filling here and there and I had to sand/file all the overhanging deck edges to remove the mold lines as I did with the platforms on the hull itself.

I installed the funnel and filled its joints too, but stopped putting on the funnel cap since I know there's PE going on top and may want to install that with the cap off the funnel.

With the island on hold I went back to working on the bow. I brush painted the decking Deck Blue and the anchor chain and chafing plating semi-gloss black. 

The wildcats aren't painted yet since they're Navy Blue 5N, which I did next. In this case I wanted to airbrush it. I thought I had none left of the Life Color 5N, and decided to attempt to mix my own and got very, very close. I wanted to use Tamiya color for my mix, and used Nato Black, White, Flat Blue and Red. First I tried using a darkened Field Blue, but it's a bit on the green side. Here's the swatch test I used in getting the mix.

The center color is Life Color Navy Blue 5N

After staring at test number five and the sample, I thought I caught a tiny bit of purple so I added a tiny amount of red and got it very close. #7 is my last trial and it's very, very close. So I went to find one of my mixing bottles (that have the same threads as my Badger bottle adapter) and what did I find? A 1/3 full bottle of Life Color 5N that was still okay and just needed a little thinning. So I used that to air brush the front bulkhead and the flight deck supports. I did the latter while still on the sprue so I could spray the backsides. l then glued these to the deck with med CA. I tried the front part of the flight deck onto the hull and you certainly can't see much of my fancy anchor chain and painting. But I know it's there.


  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Friday, February 02, 2018 6:50 PM

With just over an hour in the shop I put on the bow 40mm gun tub and started installing the bow railing (an old GMM piece. I figured that being a dark blue color, you won't really be able to tell the older GMM from the new stuff that's coming next week. Besides I wanted to do some railing work.

For long railings a trick is to tape it to the hull where you want it before adding CA. Otherwise, you're wrestling with some very flimsy brass that will not cooperate. CA is applied from the back. You'll have to go back and touch up the paint to hide the shiny adhesive. I'm using Tamiya Tape which isn't too tacky. You don't want a tape that will pull the railing back off when you try to de-tape.

I located where the chocks were and removed a bottom horizontal rail at each location.

So that's one more rail down and lots more to go. When I was a kid building many, many box-scale Revell ship kits, I longed for the ability to add "real" railings to them. To me, railings make the model. Only one, the USS Buckley Destroyer Escort, was a large enough scale that it had stanchions where you used thread to create the rail. I loved that model.

On monday work will continue. When the rest of the PE comes, I'll get back to the island. I'm thinking about how to build the tripod mast out of bras.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Saturday, February 03, 2018 4:30 PM

News Bulletin: The order from Total Navy came today! And the new GMM PE is much finer than the old stuff I just put on the bow and is custom fit, so I'm going to rip off that on Monday and replace it.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Monday, February 05, 2018 5:38 PM

Spent the weekend poring over the GMM frets. Some of the parts will be very challenging. Also working with some other naval mavens, we came to the conclusion about what additional mods are needed to make this a late-war Essex. In addition to the extra sponson 40s on the port fore hangar cat sponsor, there seems to be no other added sponsons that other in the series got. Many of the Essex-Class carriers had their bow and stern 40 tubs doubled, had an additional two 40 gun tubs hung off the flight deck in the aft third of the port side, and an additional three sponsons irregularly spaced under the island on the starboard side. Intrepid got these. Essex didn't get any of them.

But the Essex did have one of the 40 tubs removed from the fore end of the island and the flag pilot space pushed out so it coincided with the island body below. At first I thought that since I had already glued it all together, I couldn't make this change, but after studying the images and then the island I said, "what the heck! It's styrene. I can fix it."

In order to cut out the flag pilot cabin to move it forward, I needed to cut the island below so the saw could reach it. I didn't want to destroy the flag pilot front due to the porthole detail. I also had to remove all the galleries and platforms surrounding this area since all of this is changed and actually simplified.

Saw cuts, even using thin razor saws do leave a kerf and remove material. They are also not perfectly sqaure. So I had to true up the edges and remove any underdeck bracing castings since these will be replaced new with the new galleries. 

Notice the stiffening rib I installed in the island body and also in the chunk I took off. I needed this to keep the geometry intact now that the structural integrity has been disturbed.

Here's the other side. I glued a piece of 0.010" styrene sheet to raise the top surface to replace what was chewed off by the saw. I trued up the flag pilot front and it's just sitting aligned where it will sit. There is a gallery platform that I've started to shape out of 0.020" styrene. The shape of the new gallery is a half-circle in front of the flag pilot. The gun director on the kit is actually too far back and will be moved during the mod. I'm actually doing what they did to the ship in the 1994 shopping.

The countersink bit was being used as a temporary support when fitting up, and it shows clearly how small all this is.

Here's an image of the Essex's modified island front.

Here's a photo of the same.

So... wish me luck as I continue to mangle this kit. 

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 6:19 PM

One correction, yesterday's line drawing was of the Intrepid's modified flag bridge. The image below it is of the Essex. There are some minor differences. Since I'm doing an Essex, I'm relying on the photograph for most of the guidance.

Had a couple of hours today and got back into the island mods. I was at the LHS and got some more styrene needed for this model. I made the extended flag gallery which replaces the kit's gallery. I used an old ellipse template to give me the nicely shaped front edge. I used the precision sander to square the edge. 

I measured this part with the flag cabin in its final resting place to get the size and placement of the galleries and where the cabin will glue to the platform. The Sharpie line shows where the cabin ends.

I then stared at the photo and realized that the platform in front of the pilot house also had to be extended AND the director tub that used to be on the pilot house roof, is now relocated cantilevered over the front of the pilot house windows. I cut off the existing gallery and created a shaped piece that's butt-glued to the new pilot house edge. I used solvent cement and then reinforced with some CA.

It was time to glue the main pieces together. I added some connecting strips to reinforce the mating edges. The joint came out pretty good, but a little sunken on the starboard side.

Instead of slathering on a bunch of Tamiya filler, I added some sheet styrene to build up the sunken portion and then attacked it with flat-pointed riffle file. If you not familiar with these, it's a file with curved ends allowing you to file a specific place without filling what's in front or behind.

Tomorrow, I add the filler to bring those surfaces together. The port side joint was much better and a little filler with fix it all up.

I made a small rooflet for the pilot house to cover that large hole left over from moving the director tub. I'll trim the curved edges tomorrow.

Here's the structural work completed. The gallery rails will be 0.015" X .125 styrene strip which scales out to a little over 40" high which is just about right. It's thin enough so it will bend around all those contours. It will probably look better than the kit's molded rails.

It's going to all look okay once it filled and primed. I removed the door on the flag cabin to facilitate sanding all those joints and will replace it with a PE piece before the railings go on. Incidentally, 1 scale inch in 1:350 scale is a tad less than 0.003" (a sheet of paper), so even .005" PE is over an inch and half thick in scale, which is heavy steel plate (armor).

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Wednesday, February 07, 2018 5:38 PM

The day started with adding some filler at the various joints. After sanding it, I shot it with a bit of Tamiya gray primer to highlight any troubles and then sanding it again.

I then added the gallery edge solid rails. I used solvent cement first and then touched it up with CA to ensure that it wouldn't break away. It came out okay so I added some 0.020" X 0.020" square styrene to simulate the underneath supporting ribs. In the prototype picture it shows the ends of the ribs and they appear as squares (to me). I originally was cutting them to length and then gluing them in, but realized that I could cut them long and clip them off with the flush cut cutters.

And here's what it looks like finished and waiting for PE and Paint.

I put this aside and then bit another bullet: building the brass main mast tripod/platform and radar supports.

I traced the kit's mast top and cut it out of fairly thin brass stock using a jeweler's saw with a very fine tooth blade. I hand filed the edges to even them out. I drilled the main mast hole 1/16" and then the smaller radar mast with a #56 drill. The kit's legs are almost exactly 1/16" and the top mast is about 0.045" so I'm using a piece of 3/64" brass rod. Both rods will match the kit's closely.

I then laid out the bottom ribbing to add substance to the assembly and, more importantly, provide a place where the back two angular posts are going to tie into the mast top. I cut the underpiece out of the same thinner stock, but thought it needed some more meat so I traced that piece and again using the jeweler's saw, cut this out. It's not pretty, but will be almost invisible since there's more PE trim/railings/support beams.

These two pieces were soldered together using the RSU using some silver bearing solder. I clipped a small piece and then flattened it with small hammer on a v-block. I used TIX flux and heated until it melted. I used the highest temp solder I have so this joint wouldn't re-melt when I solder more stuff on. I have three other heat range solders that I'll use ending with TIX to do any PE soldering on the assembly. It's sitting on a ceramic soldering pad from MicroMark. It's nice since it's very soft and you can use pushpins to hold parts in place while soldering.

So here's where we are now. I have to locate and drill the angular holes for the angle poles, make a jig to hold all the legs at the proper attitude while gluing. The GMM instructios for the lattice PE that goes in the middle has 1:1 drawings of the triangles making up the two platforms. I will be able to make a pyramidal wood block that will hold the legs properly for good soldering.

There's a lip that goes around the after portion of the top that I make using the brass on the PE frets. It makes good stock for scratch-building small stuff out of brass.

I can also make those little triangular gussets and solder them also... or not, or use CA. I have options. Thinking about building this stuff is worse than actually getting down and doing it.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Thursday, February 08, 2018 7:34 PM

First up today was trying out the new pedestals that will support the ship when it's finished. I got these from which I found when I googled, "Model Ship Pedestals". They're turned brass and look good. For the Missouri's pedestal I bought a lamp finial at a lamp shop. It worked good except that it's an unusual thread and I had to get different hardware to hold it all together. This one's going to have big bolts going through. I'm going to reinforce the ship hull's bottom with some thicker plywood and epoxy the nuts in place to facilitate gettng it all together. 

Then I got down to business of making and soldering the three legs of the tripod mast. Using the kit's tripod legs I cut pieces of solid 1/16" brass. The back legs are a slightly different length than the vertical middle leg. I needed to solder them at the proper angles. While there could be some minor adjustments, major shifts would break the solder joints.

To figure out how to do all this, I first glued the kit's styrene parts together and temporarily glued them to the ship with white glue so I could measure the geometry. I measured the spacing of the lets at the mast top and laid out my soldered piece to locate these holes. Although the legs go backwards at an angle I drilled the holes straight on the drill press since drilling angular holes is a pain. Instead, I shaped the ends of the 1/16" brass legs do they set at the proper angle.

I then soldered them with 60/40 rosin core solder which melted at a lower temp than the silver-bearing solder that I used yesterday to layer the mast top. After soldering the vertical, center leg, I used hemostats to act as heat sinks to prevent the previously soldered legs from unsoldering. Even with the RSU, when soldering to thick stuff, enough heat would soak to the others to remelt them.

After all three legs were in place I test fit the tower to the model and made minor adjustments to get the spacing dead on. One of the biggest tests of this geometry would be how well the PE lattice platform part would nestle into the tripod. So I decided it was time to dive into this very delicate PE work. 

The lattice platforms consist of three parts: the outside frame which gets folded twice sicne the middle bend is actuall a flat spot with two folds, the bottom platform with back rail and the top platform with its back rail. I use a large "hold-and-fold" from the Small Tool Shop, an essential tool if you're seriously going to do any PE work.

I thought about soldering this, but frankly, it's too delicate to get any kind of soldering tool anywhere near this assembly so I used CA. At the Scale Reproductions Inc, on Tuesday, I asked Brian Bunger (one heckuva model builder in his own right) about how he handles PE so it doesn't stick to his tweezers more than the work. His secret... he uses thick CA since it cures much more slowly, allows more working time, has more innate tackiness, and won't glue to the tools as easily. I tried it, AND IT WORKS!.

Here's the lattice platform waiting for the next step. The platforms had to wedge into the "V" created by the outside lattice. So far, I'm very happy with GMM's PE. It's etched on 0.006" stock which is a bit thicker than AM-Works. And it's not breaking at the bend lines. That's critical to keeping one's modeling mental health.

Then I had to fit this into the crotch of the tripod mast. It took a bit of fittings, adjusting the legs, more fitting until finally the legs contacted the lattice platforms evenly. I had to break on leg loose and resolder it to a slightly wider stance after I reached it elastic limit.


The wedge-shape reinforcing brackets that go under the mast top, were located on the standard set of GMM PE. I bought both sets: standard Essex and Special Essex. The lattice platforms were in the special set, but the top brackets were in the standard set. I glued them on, and then decided to ACTUALLY read the instructions. There was a tiny gap cut in the upper edge of the bracket which I wondered what it was for. It was to drop on top of the main yards stays which is all part of a single PE part. So I had to rip them off. Now Murphy's Law works in reverse sometimes. You can have a terrible time getting PE to stick when you want it to. And then you have a terrible time getting PE off when you've put it on incorrectly. In this case I darn near mangled one of the brackets trying to break it loose. I was able to reasonably re-shape it after removing it.

The yard arm is an annoying, very delicate PE assembly consisting of the center piece with all the details, and two very slim PE pieces that you apply to the front and back to triple-up the yard proper and make it stronger and look better. It was very had for me to get together neatly and it continued to break loose as I was handling it. I thought about soldering it, but decided to keep wrestling with the CA.

I filed some flats on the back tripod legs so there was more glue surface to install the yard. The very fine stay glues underneath the mast top.

I then went back and re-fit the brackets and CA'd them into place. They also wrap around the legs a bit which helped provide more gluing area. After taking this picture, I realized that the bracket was not positioned properly, I broke it loose and then re-fit it so the notch actually grabbed the yard stay. I'm going to add another piece of brass to the front of the legs that fully encases them and you can see in the photos.

According to the photos, the ship's bell hangs underneath the upper lattice platfrom. The kit does not include the bell, but my old Missouri had two of them and I was able to scavenge one for this more. I filed the bell's top flat and CA'd it to the underside of the top platform.

Tried on on one more time on the ship to admire it. Of course I almost had a catastrophe when I grabbed it improperly, bent the yard and separated those three parts on one end and had to sweat a bit as I got it to glue it together again. For the up-scale Missouri, I shaped my own main yard out of solid brass bar and may yet do the same here if it continues to be trouble.

There's still more work to be done on this very complex assembly: I want to put some angle brackets underneath, it gets a thick edge for part of the perimeter and then railing. Lastly there's the radar mast that goes on in back. I may solder the railing and definately solder the radar mast in place (or CA). All of this stuff is what makes looking at these models some compelling. As Gary Kohs of Fine Art Models described, "A fine scale model's detail, keeps you looking deeper and deeper and still finding new things of interest." I want this model to do that.

Due to the incredible delicacy of this piece I'm not installing it on the island yet. There's a lot of other stuff to go on the island including vertical and inclined ladders and lots of railing pieces plus a myriad of additional radar/radio antenna. I'm going to build each of these as a subassembly, maybe even paint them as such and then finally attach them to the island, maybe after the island goes on the flight deck.

I really thought this tripod mast project was the most challenging of the boat which is why I wanted to get it out of the way. I think that was the right decision.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Friday, February 09, 2018 6:04 PM

Just in case any of my thread followers ever get the idea that I'm the "World's Greatest Modeler" or something akin to that, today will dispell that thought forever. That complex tripod mast that you all saw in yesterday's post is no more. Instead, I fought valiantly as I regressed through layers of work as things kept getting more and more desperate. We're not through yet, but it was not a very fun day. It was a tag-team wrestling match where the opponent had 3x more folks on his team than mine.

It all started when I wanted to add gussets under the mast top. These went on sort of okay.  As I was manhandling the mast to put all these pieces in place, previously glued stuff started to unglue. I don't trust CA and this was a prime example. The front brackets were little brass triangles that I made and CA'd. The rear ones was some very small sytrene strip since working the brass at this size started getting ridiculous. You can see in this pic how awful the yardarm was looking.

The yardarm was the first part to break loose. First the joint on one side broke followed by the other. I dissected it from the mast, cutting the stays that were still captivating it. I didn't like how it kept deforming more and more. I took a #11 blade and separated the three layers. I'm going to do what I did with the Missouri; make a solid brass yard out of small brass square stock tapered to shape on the belt sander. 

Here's the "debris" of the yardarm. I'm sure that when I make the solid one, the rather wiggly piece with all the detail will work out okay. Luckily, the GMM PE seems to be pretty tough and none of the tiny weather stations and antenna posts have broken off...yet.

I wanted to install a piece across the front as it is on the photo. This piece wasn't easy to install, and the CA wasn't working. Then the bigger brackets started letting go. During all of this, one of the leg's solder joint let go. Nuts! In the process of soldering that back in place, the CA in most of the brackets let go due to the heating. And to make matters worse, the delicate mast platforms broke loose. I got that out with doing more damage and will reinstall it after other things are done.

I decided that the flimsy PE brackets now had to go since they were a mess and made a set of some heavier gauge brass. You don't see these parts from their edge so thicker material would work. I traced the existing parts and made two new ones.

Instead of gluing these in, I soldered them using the TIX ultra low-temp solder. I had to re-solder that leg two more times until it was finally structurally sound. I also made a new front piece and soldered the new brackets to it which they overlapped.

The mast was now very solid and I wanted to add a band around the edge to thicken it a bit. This turned out to be almost an hour of utter frustration. It ended without completion. The problem appeared to be caused by several factors. First, I'm using the side pieces of PE frets as my brass stock. They typically use half-hard (or harder) brass for this since it has to maintain its shape in very fine cross-sections. As a result, the banding was very springy and didn't want to stay put. I thought about annealing it, but this requires heating it too red heat and letting it cool. This oxidizes the surface badly and would have to be abraded to give solderable brass and that would deform the heck out of it.

The other is how TIX solder seems to behave. If you get a good joint the first time, it seems okay. But if the joint breaks loose, re-soldering it seems to get worse and worse and it just doesn't want to make a strong joint. It was also a bear to hold in place while I was heating it. I tried pliers of all different shapes, but ended with the thing completely detached. I'm going to try again on Monday when my head clears and my nerves recover.

It was one step forward and three steps back all day. You get days like that. Like I've always said, I'm not patient, but I am persistant! I may put the railing on without that band around the edge. Again, I'm the only one who would notice.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, February 09, 2018 6:09 PM

Gussets under bridge decks etc. are B***. I hate those things too.

Chin up, lad.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Monday, February 12, 2018 5:47 PM

Right Oh!

Nothing like a weekend to clear your head. First of all I was having trouble visualizing how the PE folded on the SK radar backing frame. GMM's instructions didn't help. On one of the other fourms that I post this tread (three total), one of the guys said he scans the PE fret, and then in the computer enlarges it about 300%, prints it out and then experiments folding the paper before screwing up any PE. Great idea! I did it and it really helped figure it out.

The my genius #1 grandson, who always has great suggestions, solved my problem of the getting the rim on the Tri-mast platform. He suggested soldering the ring together first and then fitting it on the platform. He's a very clever kit, doing great in school and loved solving technical problems. He heading to engineering school and is in mid-11th grade.

I soldered the ring using 60/40 solder so it was a higher melting point than the TIX lo-temp solder with which I will tie the ring to the platform.

It took a bitt of fiddling to get the ring onto the platform, but once in place, getting it soldered went relatively uneventful. I later filled the little gap in the rear with some J-B Weld epoxy which I describe in more detail further down this post.

I did a few other odds and ends today. The GMM PE attachment points are very fine and fragile and some are breaking loose just handling the fret. I needed to fold and deal with some of these now. Two of the long-range radio towers fell off and stood the risk of deformation, so I folded them and then soldered the mating edge ensuring that they wouldn't unfold.

Behind them you can see the lattice platform PE assembly. This not only came un-glued from its nesting place between the legs, but it also fell apart with the two side pieces separating from each other at the corner. Luckily, the inner platforms were still attached: the lower one to one side and the upper to the other side. This helped in getting them back together AND instead of CA, I epoxied these parts back together. I believe this will really stabilize the situation.

On the top of the tri-mast platform rear is the YE radar and its tower. I made the tower out of 3/64 brass, turned and drilled an aluminum ring for a platform, and attempted to solder the GMM YE screen to the top of the brass column. Didn't work so well. The little tab on the screen just couldn't handlie any handling at all, and it broke off. I then drilled the top of the column for a piece of 0.021" brass wire and soldered this in. I then epoxied the screen to this pin. Tomorrow we'll see if it's secure enough. I believe it will be okay.

I also had to attach the backing frame on the SK radar front. This backing is some really fine PE stuff and using my paper trial, folded it so the various contact pieces contacted the flat screen. Took some fiddling... lots of fiddling, and then I glued it in place with J-B Weld. For the uninitiated, J-B Weld is a 2-part dense epoxy that has steel powder infused in the mix. It dries dark gray and is very stable. I glued the antenna and guy wires on the Missouri with this and it's worked well.

In the background of the above you see a folded and somewhat mangled long-range antenna hinge cage that had separated from the fret and was loose in the GMM mailing envelope. The screening is so fragile that it got torn up when I was putting the other fret back in the envelop not realizing that this piece was floating around inside. I folded it and will use it, but I'm not happy about it.

Lastly, I needed to install a railing on top of the tri-mast platform. GMM doesn't include a rail for this location. I first tried using the left over Eduard railing, but was having trouble forming it without deforming it. I went to my grandson's idea and measured the circumference, cut it to overlap at the end, and then soldered the rail. I made the rail to sit on top of the platform, not wrap around it. And again, I used J-B Weld to hold it on. And again, we'll see how it worked out tomorrow. J-B Weld is a slow cure and needs overnight to set up hard. It can be drilled and tapped and can fix stuff that might not appear to be fixable.

This railing was early GMM which is a bit more crudely designed then their current variety, but I purposefully wanted something with a little more body so I could form it without wrecking it.

There's a radar that goes on the front of this platform while the YE radar goes into the hole in the rear. This front radar is another very delicated assembly job, and again I will turn the brass base for it on the lathe and J-B Weld the screen onto the base and base onto platform.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:27 PM

The J-B Weld worked perfectly and created strong, unobtrusive joints for both the railing and the top search radar screen. With this new found confidence I decided to build the next radar; the SP radar that would go on a mount at the front of the tri-mast platform. 

This is the instructions from GMM. I chose to do #1 (first...more about that later).

The spider in the back gets dish shaped. I turned a tool in brass to press in the shape. I have a spherical turning attachment on the TAIG lathe which is very handy. After cutting out all the tiny parts I pressed the tool into the surface of my soldering pad to make a corresponding dish impression, and then flormed the spider. I first tried to glue the spider to the frame using thick CA, but it wasn't working well so I switched to J-B Weld. 

This is kind of what it looked liked. I looked better in person.

I had it sitting on the bench above the belly board where I do most of the work in this location. I then needed to turn the conical base for this antenna. The instructions showed a full-size image of this scratch-build part. It was .150" o.d. and I turned it down from a piece of .250" brass rod using the compound slide on the lathe set to the cone angle. For  the top machinery I just soldered some brass pieces to it to provide a mounting point for the delicate antenna. 

I measured the ladder distance so I could cut some off the the ladder stock included in the basic fret and then cut and formed the ladder ends to wrap around the mast. I used thick CA for this gluing. I glued the top mast and the antenna mount using J-B, and started another antenna project, making the mount for the SK antenna.

This mount consist of a piece of 3/32 brass mounted onto a small triangular platform that has very fine (and fragile) triangle trusses underneath. I do not trust this flimsy truss to have any real structural strength to hold up the antenna, so I added a piece of 0.032" brass wire soldered on the bottom with a long pin sticking out that will go into a hole in the funnel. There's a similar bracket holding the aft mast on the Missouri and I know in my heart of hearts that this is the joint that will break loose if I move that model too much.

I J-B'd (new verb) this mast to the platform after sticking the pin into the side of my soldering block. This needs to cure overnight. A railing needs to go around that platform. That's no something I'm looking forward to.

I flattened one end of the brass wire using a vice grips so it had a nice broad contact area. As it turns out, the resistance soldering tweezer make contact with this very thin brass truss and vaporized a bit of it so it couldn't support anything anyway. I'm going to add brass pins to all of these cantilevered platforms since the SC-2 radar hangs on one of these on the other side of the funnel.

I also build two more long-range radio towers and they continue to break out of the fret, and then built the SC-2 Radar lattice mast. Like the other lattice structures, I soldered these joints, not CA'd them. The round platform is CA'd since it has a lot of contact support. There is a railing that goes around this platform. That's going to be fun...


While I doing all this other stuff. That fraglile SP antenna somehow got picked up? bounced? or somehow moved so it was now on the t-shirt on the belly tray. And it was no longer structurally intact. So I reglued it and had it sitting on that piece of black plexi in front of me. I moved something else and then it was gone! I mean really gone! Not on the t-shirt, not stuck to my lab coat, and not on the floor anywhere in the vicinity I was working. Into the quantum rift.

So I built the SM-1 antenna to mount. It's no longer chronologically correct since the SP was used late in the War which is when I'm modeling. The rivet counters will have to forgive. This antenna (#2 antenna on the drawing above) is a challenging build since it has a 8 piece spider behind and it's really, really, really tiny. I got the back frame together, and attached to the screen, and then got the three filigred dipoles on. I went to mount the antenna to the base now curing on the tri-mast platform, but found this to be "sub-optimal" to say the least. I removed the base since the J-B hadn't cured much at all, and then prepared to J-B the screen to the base. Of course, all those delicate dipole attachments came off. I'll attempt to get them back on when the J-B cures tomorrow. And if I don't it still looks infinitely better than the plastic ones it replaces.

To hold the base to the backing I held the base in a hemostat and then let it rest on the screen. I got it positioned well so it should cure okay... famous last words. You can tell just how small this stuff is looking at the looming size of the hemostat.

I'm going to fabricate a new main yard. I looked at some more photos and it looks like that yard was actually round. I have some very fine telescoping brass tubing that could work okay. Loren Perry is sending me a replacement of the brass yard for just a shipping charge so I'll be able to affix a good PE part to the stronger yard. I should be able to finish up the tri-mast tomorrow. I'm concerned that my leg spacing seems to have narrowed. I don't know if I can make it wider without wrecking everything I've done. Sometimes you have to know when to stop.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 6:06 PM

Short session, but made a couple of steps forward and a few backwards.

I adhered the SM-1 antenna assembly onto the platform using thick CA. I opted for this since I wanted it to cure fast. It's holding nicely. Sorry about the soft focus. My iPhone isn't so hot with macro photography. 

I added the ring plartform onto the SK mast using thick CA. I then needed to build a round railing using the GMM 2-rail style railing. I calculated the circumference measuring the ring platform and then multiplying by Pi (jr high math at work), cut the rail a little long to allow so overlap for soldering, and cut it from the long length on the fret. I soldered the ends with about a 1/32" overlap. It was the only way to ensure that the ring rail stayed closed.

I decided to solder this rail to the platform too. And I'm glad I did as I will regale you with. I'm finding a problem with my work... I tend to get myopic... I focus so intently on the tiny little spot upon which I'm working that I don't realize that how I holding the assembly is deforming some other aspect. The angle supports under the platform weren't doing so well and started to break away. I needed to attach them again. Sodlering was the way to go. As I was handling the assembly I realized that I had pressed against the rail and it was getting a bit weird. Becuase it was soldered it didn't break loose, just changed shape. I was able to massage it back to a reasonable circle. Ain't great, but it will be okay.

I cut the angle supports off of a platform style that I'm not using and used them to replace the original ones that were breaking away and badly deformed. It took a little playing around to get everything into position since the actual edge was only 0.005" wide and I had to try and hold it steady enough so the solder would solidify. I couldn't use the RSU since there was no way for the tweezers to get a purchase. And then the vertical posts J-B Weld broke loose when I bumped it. I re-glued that and will let it sit overnight. Having the brass pin was a god send since it allowed me to hold onto the assembly without depending on the thin PE platform. You can clearly see the pin in the jaws of the hemostat. That pin will go into a drilled hole in the funnel and will be epoxied for security. Those angle brackets will be for decorative only.

There's two more things to go onto this very small assembly: a railing around the platform proper and the SK antenna. The last thing to go on will be the antenna, and the it will go somewhere for safe keeping until it goes on the island. I can't solder the railing since any heat of any kind at that edge will de-solder those angle brackets. I'll J-B it.

Last thing I did was J-B Weld the lattice platforms back into the crotch of the tri-mast. This too needs to sit overnight. There's a long ladder which goes up the center leg that needs to be added too.

There will be some careful cleanup of the excess J-B. Paint will hide a lot of the funny looking surface you're seeing (I hope...). You can better see the SM-1 antenna in this picture. I attempted to get the dipoles on (again!) and lost them again due to the same myopic work habits as I noted above. I have to be more conscious of how I'm grasping these fragile assemblies to prevent damaging previously attached things. They're so fragile that you can't feel when you're applying too much pressure. The parts deform and then you see it.

Slowly, but surely, I'm getting all this finicky stuff under control. It does tax one's patience that's for sure.

My mast leg spacing does not conformd to the ship's holes. I'm going to shave off those bosses and then add my own doubles to add more meat for the mast legs to get good purchase.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Thursday, February 15, 2018 5:42 PM

Another day resolving catastropes. Some days I wonder why I punish myself like this. It's almost as bad as my attempts at playing golf. I did it for years and only got frustration. It was that kind of day.

It all started nicely. Since yesterday's J-B work was now solid I added the railing around the SK platform first forming the curve around a piece of brass. I attempted to use thick CA to glue the railing to the platform since I was afraid of un-soldering the angle brackets, but this wasn't working so I bit the bullet and soldered the railing in place. It worked!

I used J-B to glue the radar assembly onto the upper parts of the mast. I then set this in a vise on my secondary workbench and all was well with the world.

I then went back to the SC antena tower. It too needed a radial railing on the work platform and GMM included a specific piece of rail at the right length. I soldered the ends of the rail together and then soldered the rail to the round platform. If you look closely you can see the SC antenna with it's backing glued on with J-B. I added a piece of 0.032" brass rod through the hole on the top of the lattice tower, and extended the rod through the bottom so it will serve as additional support to the final assembly.

I also added the long ladder on the tri-masts vertical leg. First I tried to get it in place with J-B, but was having trouble so I soldered this also and didn't un-solder anything else. Then castastophe struck.

I was in the process of making my own yardarm in preparation for the new PE to arrive from Loren Perry at GMM. He found a spare Essex yardarm detail and is sending it to me for the price of the postage. I assembled the new yard out of three peices of very fine telescoping tubing. As I noted yesterday, a close inspection of the real yard showed a circular cross-section. Again, I soldered the three pieces together and then chucked the rod into my Dremel and files the joints smooth.

The smallest tub, which I believe is .5mm, has a hole in the middle that I wanted to fill with a piece of fine guitar string. So I attempted to find my piece of High E guitar string in a plastic container on the shelf over my work bench. There is a corollary of Murphy's Law called "the law of selective gravitation" that says that anything dropped will cause the most amount of damge". It came about from NASA when a wrench was dropped while making a space satellite and caused a million bucks worth of damage. As I moved the box, a bottle of MicroMark Pressure Sensitive Adhesive fell off the shelf. It landed on the plastic container that held some of the finished PE peices like the five long range radio towers. 

The box exploded its parts in every direction. I was able to recover all of it except for one radio tower. I simply can't find it anywhere. And believe me I've looked everywhere.

I'm hoping it will come back from the quantum rift tomorrow. Otherwise, I'm going to be building an Essex with only four of the five antenna towers. It might be a blessing in disquise since I have one wrecked base for them. But that wasn't the worst thing that happened!

I pushed my roll-around auxiliary work bench out of the way to search under it for the missing tower. In the process of pushing it, I must have contacted the vise that was holding the SK antenna assembly with the curing J-B. I had pushed it backhand not looking at the bench when I did it. Big Mistake!

When I next noticed the assembly, the SK antenna was no longer on the mast. I found a mangled back frame on the bench nearby and the antenna facing on the floor. This was J-B'd yesterday so it was cured, but now fractured. I spent a long time, re-forming the back frame, cleaning off all the J-B and getting it ready to reattach. I decided to solder the back frame to the facing, and it worked. Incidentally, I ordered and just received a solder paste and dispenser from Kester (Amazon) which will make it easier to precisely add solder to these micro-assemblies.

I then attemped to solder the antenna to the mast after cleaning off the un-cured J-B. This was a solid brass rod and the heat needed to tin the piece melted the J-B that was holding the mast to the PE base and it fell apart. The soldered railings and brackets DID NOT LET GO. So at least that worked.

I made a new mast, this time out of 1/16" tubing, not solid, so it wouldn't take so much heat to tin. I decided to solder the antenna to the mast first and then J-B the new mast back onto the platform. Meanwhile all this handling distorted the railings and brackets at least three times, and the round platform also broke loose (it was CA'd), and I put that back on after soldering the antenna. The antenna soldering worked also, I re-glued the new mast to the platform so it is again curing overnight, only this time it will be a complete assembly.

Whew! I'd like to say this stuff never happened before, but I suffered similar trials when building the Missouri. I rolled over SK-2 radar assemblies with my desk chair wheels and had one of the main gun director radars darn near destroyed when a piece of white cardboard (which I was using as a clean photo background) fell forward, hit the radar and crushed it. It was the last one I had and I re-formed is as best as I could. Stuff happens!

You can see some of the fine screen details have been filled with solder (more reason to use solder paste from a precision dispenser). And those railiings have taken a beating. I'm going to leave it alone... I've done enough damage already. Hopefully, tomorrow will be less eventful. This is a hobby and is supposed to be relaxing. Yeah! Right!

  • Member since
    July, 2010
  • From: Tempe AZ
Posted by docidle on Thursday, February 15, 2018 11:05 PM


Even with all the trials and tribulation, this is a great WIP. As for the PE damage, you can always go my route and call it "authentic" battle damage!





  • Member since
    December, 2010
  • From: Salem, Oregon
Posted by 1943Mike on Thursday, February 15, 2018 11:08 PM


It's not always relaxing! It can be frustrating, anxiety provoking, and, on occasion, lights up the neurons between your amygdala and prefrontal cortex that switch on angry emotions along with the urge to break the work you've been doing into many, many irretrevable tiny, broken parts Super Angry. Ask me how I know this Big Smile.

But, that having been said, it's usually a very satisfying experience for me to see the results of my labor take the form of a reasonable facsimile of what I'd thought I wanted to build.

You, however, seem to be more demanding of yourself than most in this hobby. I empathize.

I don't try to scratch build anywhere near the parts you do. I am a "hack" at this hobby but I do enjoy it most of the time.

Your kit is coming along with amazing detail and I certainly appreciate your running dialogue on the process. Sometimes PE is bent beyond repair. Sometimes it's best to do what you're doing - leave it alone. And sometimes I would just spring for another set of PE. That's because I don't want to have a stroke trying to beat a ruined piece of brass back into shape. I just don't have the skill. You probably do have the skill. Your choice - your wallet.

In any event, I enjoy checking in on this thread. I believe you're an exceptional modeler and, in the end, you'll make things work.




"Le temps est un grand maître, mais malheureusement, il tue tous ses élèves."

Hector Berlioz

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Friday, February 16, 2018 7:37 PM

Thanks for the moral support! It's what I like about this community of thinkers and doers that represent folks who build stuff.

I like to post the details; I like how people react to it and it's cathartic for me helping me process what's going on and giving me more ideas.

Today was a mixed bag. I actually finished the two main radar systems, shot them with some primer and put them aside someplace safe. First I got the SC antenna assembled. That required a bit of fussind and annoyance. I needed to make the base for it. It needed a hole to capture the piece of brass wire that serves as a mount for the screen. Here's how I build that pin attachment that I noted the other day. 

I flatten the end of the brass wire in successive steps in the flat jaws of a vise grip. I've used this trick to make all kinds of flat/round brass transitions. I then drilled it with a 0.032" drill and soldered it to the un-bent PE platform. I left the bending of them until the soldering was done.

I tried the Kester soldering paste for these kinds of jobs and it does have an advantage in that you can lay down a thin film of it, it alredy has flux and melts at a reasonable temperature. It really stiffens the little platform and the pin is terrific for both attachment and holding the assembly while working on it in a pin vise.

I made the mistake of fastening the screen and it's fragile backing frame onto the unit before I got it mounted on the pad. I also thought that the tiny PE ring that was part of the backing had the same diameter hole as that in the top of the lattice tower. IT WAS NOT!. It was smaller and when I tried to insert the support pin into it, the back frame popped off. I J-B'd it, and should have soldered it.

I attempted to get it back on again, and then it got lost again. It's now not on it and good riddance. I left that pin long and soldered the screen directly to it. That screen ain't coming off.

I put the lower pin through the hole that was continued through the platform and then soldered it from below. Oh... and the circular platfrom came loose when the heat got to it from the soldering of the screen. And the circular rail separated from the platform too. I got it all back together, resoldered the rail to the platform and CA'd the platform to the tower. So here are both major radar installations waiting for attachment to the island.

Some of the fine detals got filled with solder, J-B and paint, but from two feet away it will work. I know... the Missouri has similar flaws.

Next up was the Mark 37 gun directors. These things gave me fits when building the Missouri and based on how it went today, they're going to give me fits again. Part of the problem is my ham fisted handling and the other is the geometry of the modeling of this somewhat delicate full-size structure. The big radar on top was supported by a rather insubtantial tubular frame. The main frame juts out at an angle and is not simply supported directly underneath, and then you have the twin parabolic reflectors and other stuff attached to them. 

I went through a full set of Eduard PE and then Tom's modelworks PE before I assembled the four MK 37s on the Missouri. At least the Essex only has two. 

Before starting on the PE I built the plastic bases from the kit and then created a holder for them so I can add details without them moving all over the place. The base turned out to have a diameter of almost exactly 5/16". I drilled a piece of scrap and stuck the pieces into it. There were a bunch of other blind holes in this block since it's used as a drill press block so I taped them over so little PE bits down get lost in them. Then I had the idea to add some tape turned back on itself to act as "PE Flypaper" and catch dropping PE.

 Here are all the GMM bits that make up the radars for the two directors.

First the pluses. The base PE is good because GMM didn't etch the bends and reduce its strength. Not only did I bend it, but it got unbent, re-bent, bent again, etc. and didn't break. That was a good thing.

After bending I tried it on the top of the director and realized that the very small contact area didn't bode well for using CA to hold it down, but I couldn't solder to plastic. So I cut a thin piece of brass and shaped it to the same size as the director's roof and soldered it to that. It's strong! I will CA the brass plate to the director after all of the rest is built.

The PE flypaper was a non-starter and was more trouble than it was worth so I pulled it off.

I folded the GMM upper mount and then attempted to solder the little tab onto the flat part of the lower mount, and couldn't hold or get an angle that let me solder it any way I tried. It was also very flimsy and kept bending and deforming no matter how careful I was. I then turned to two left over Eduard upper mounts. These are much more detailed and realistic than the GMM, however Eduard DOES etch their bends and this comes back to bite me. I got the lower mount soldered to the frame successfully and then got the upper soldered to the lower in this hybrid deal.

I also soldered the sides of the frame so the arms wouldn't keep spreading. So far so good.

I'm not happy with the blotchy solder. That was the result of using the paste and having the plate not receptive evenly across its surface. I'll do better next time. Paint will hide some of this.

Then it was time to make the parabolic double screen. This is a Eduard part also and therefore has those etched bends. The first one I bent fell into two pieces are that bend line so I worked it as separate pieces. Then suddenly... they were gone. Somehow they both got off the t-shirt and into... what?... the floor?... not this floor, at least not in a 25 square foot area. Quantum Rift again!

So I bent the second and last set I have. This time it didn't separated into two. I decided to solder this also since it's an awful CA job. Got it all soldered, and then disaster strikes.

That joint kept breaking when doing the Mo and it broke again. This picture clearly shows the difference in sophistication between Eduard and GMM. I've got some ideas about how to fix the broken support tab by reinforcing it with a piece of solid square brass stock that will be soldered into the crotch of the joint and it won't break again. I also have Tom's Modelworks PE MK 37s and will attempt those if I can't find those lost parabolic screens.

I've taken thousands of pictures on models with my iPhone and never realized that the telephoto method of finger-pinching that's used to do telephoto normal pictures, also works at doing macro photograhy. I found it by accident today and went "Whoa! What was that? How did I do that?" I played with the phone and found that I could take dramatic ultra closeup pics like the above.

I also found that my old Missouri still had it's horn and it will now be re-purposed to be the horn for the Essex. 

I'm glad I found it since I didn't really want to scratch-build this. The GMM set has a PE whistle platform. Now it has a whistle to go on it. That old ship has done noble duty giving up its pieces for better projects.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Saturday, February 17, 2018 5:36 PM

Had a rare Saturday session. The weather was disgusting and it was a good day to do some more work. I also did one hour on the bike and elliptical so I don't feel too guilty. I spent almost 2 hours building ONE Mark 37 gun directior. This time I decided to try the Tom's Modelworks bracket and screen since it is a bit more robust, doesn't have etched bend lines and I have 8 sets of them. Unfortunately I don't have any extra lower bases. They were all consumed in making these things for the Missouri build, and I went through a ton of them.

I say unfortunately becasuse the front bent leg of the base finally fell off after about four resoldering sessions. So the base has three legs. You can't really see it, but it certainly has less structural integrity.

To reinforce that critical mounting lug, here you can see the piece of square cross-section brass rod that I soldered to the lug.

Again, I wanted to solder everything. It's forgiving (to a point) and if something isn't quite right you can re-position it. That being said, it was the constant attempt to get everything right that caused most of my troubles today. I wanted to get the radar reflector properly captured in the tips of the bracket. I had to solder and re-solder probably 5 or 6 times before it was right. And that was not just doing the soldering. Other bad things started happening the more I screwed around with it, including, the lug separating from the block, the base de-soldering from the brass plate (twice). Then I wanted to add the side parabolic screen. The first time I soldered it, it was off-center. The second time, sticking out too far. Then the screen detached...and so on for two hours.

I finally reached the point when I could CA the little IFF antenna that sticks out of the middle, and then the side antenna's lug broke when I attempted to file the brass plate to get it to conform to the plastic unit below it. I then soldered it on directly to its side with no reinforcing lug. And it was done. I may put a tiny bit of filler around the brass plate if I can do it without wrecking the whole deal. I've been known to do that... attempting to do just one more thing... and then it hits the fan.

There are still some more details that go on the director including a couple of ladders and a WTD in the base to let people get into the housing. Next session (Monday), I build the second director. I would like to think the second one will go easier than the first and this is usually the case, but not when messing with PE.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Sunday, February 18, 2018 5:40 PM

Well guys... I had and even rarer Sunday work session, and what a good session it was.

Instead of the two miserable hours building the first Mark 37 director, I got the second done in less than an hour without any hassle. Frankly, I should buy two sets of PE for every ship model I build; one for practice and one to actually make into a model. I added the ladders and WTDs to both and gave then a shot of Tamiya primer just to get an idea of how much of the yucky stuff was now hidden.

And here are both directors ready to go onto the island.

These are now set aside. I just looked a Trumpeter Essex on Pinterest built by a fellow from Singapore and he got all the extra bits onto those directors. I imagine he's a much younger person with much steadier hands. I've gone as far on these as I did on the Missouri and they look pretty good on that boat.

Next up was completing the tri-mast with the replacement yard arm PE sent to me by Loren Perry. Again, having a practice piece where I found out what was going to be a problem paid off. I was able to nail this one without a hitch.

The first thing I did differently was get the lenght of the made yard arm dead on. It's a telescoping assembly of Albion metals super-tiny thin-wall brass tubing. The inner is .4mm, then .6mm and finally .8mm. I didn't solder both ends, just one side to keep the tubes in place.

The next thing I did was file a nice flat onto this assembly to give good solder surface.

Finally, and the most important thing, was to do all the soldering of the PE to the yard while the PE was still flat and attached to its fret. I first tinned the two parts with a very thin film of solder. For those of you who aren't familiar with how solder works and why it's so strong is this. Solder actually infuses into both substrates. It forms a metalurgical bond, not just a physical one. Glue creat a physical bond to non-porous surfaces so solder is much, much stronger. And since its the metalurgical bond that provides the true strength, the thickness of the solder actually weakens the joint. More is not better.

I didn't want to fill any of the signal halyard eyes or other fine detail, so I was very judicious about the amount of solder I was applying. I used TIX liquid flux for all my metal soldering jobs even if I'm not using TIX lo-temp solder. This was done with the Weller soldering iron with a small chisel, not pointed, tip.

I then used the RSU to hold the made yard over the extreme end while aligning the other end with my fingers. The RSU heats so quickly that you can hand hold parts an 1/8
 away before it gets too hot (it depends on the mas of the metal you're heating of course). When that end joined I moved to the middle and then the other end. When it was settled in I went back and hit some intermediate locations.

The end result was a solder, true yard with no distortion and none of the details screwed up. Here's a comparison of my test piece and the finished one. Really makes the case about having two sets of PE, doesn't it.

The next step was to get this onto the tri-mast without messing anything up. I placed the yard under the platform with the yard braces tucked under the platform between the brass brackets and marked this location on the rear two mast columns with a fine-tipped Sharpie. I then, using a small diameter diamond coated cylindrical burr, ground a couple of cicular divots so the yard would have a positive location into which it can settle. I then tinned these divots with TIX solder. I didn't want to use 60/40 becasue the melt temp is too high and I run the risk of de-soldering anything.

I again used the RSU to clamp one side against that column and aligned the other side with my fingers and hit the foot switch. It heated quickly and melted the tinning and joined. Then I did the same to the other side and the job was done.

After I took the pic I rotated the two weather vanes to face into the wind, and set it on the island to admire how it looks. There are a couple of very small antennas that go on those straight stalks sticking up. They're pretty fragile and I'm going to wait until this is on the island before installing them.

There's the whistle platform to build, and a small mast and yard mounted to the aft of the funnel which I will replicate this yard making method and build that one. That yard is shorter and has less bulk so I'll build it out of the two smallest size of the tubing. Then I will start adding open WTDs (there are four in the GMM set) and all of the ladders I had scraped off the kit island. I need to add loads of little railings and a few inclined ladders, and then add in all the radar sets. I'm thinking about doing as much super-detailing of the island BEFORE I put in on the ship. Most of the rigging stays on the island. There are some guy wires that need to be installed on some of these non-lattice masts.

Again... it was a good Sunday!

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Monday, February 19, 2018 5:12 PM

It was a great Sunday, but it could have been a disasterous Monday. Yesterday, when I took that last photo of the tri-mask posed on top of the island, I had an open bottle of Tamiya liquid cement behind that white cardboard backdrop. I had pushed the backdrop not realizing the cement was behind and tipped it over... forward.

When I got down to the shop today, I found the island solidly glued to the Corian work surface on my auxiliary workbench. Other stuff was glued down also since there must have been dissolved styrene in the glue. It was all dry so I got a razor blade and pried the island off the bench. I scraped all the remaining glue off the Corian. The cement does not attack Corian. Had it, I wouldn't have been able to separate the island from the bench... small blessing.

The glue melted and distorted the port side not quite up to the next deck level. It caused slight fissures and other distortions. I wasn't going to replace all the molded-on WTDs, but now I was forced to... another small blessing. I scraped all the doors off, and then filled the surface with Tamiya putty. Kind of poetic...Tamiya glue did the damage-Tamiya putty will fix it.

I did other stuff while the putty set and then sanded it off down to a level surface. I'm sure that it's still damaged and will probably shoot some primer on it to highlight the surface and then re-fill.

How the filler appears sort of shows where the damage was. It's miracle that the whole thing wasn't wrecked which either would have scraped the entire model or left me another very challenging scratch-build project. I probably could do that, but sure didn't want to.

While it was curing I built the lattice structure under the exterior elevator. Unlike the horror of the island disaster (and I'm not talking about Puerto Rico), the elevator went together perfectly. There are 6 PE trusses and that's covered with an elaborate lattice plate. The plate needs to be folded to conform to the trusses. I needed a template.

The easiest way I could think of was to put the PE Fret on a piece of white paper and lightly shoot some rattle can primer at it leaving a silhouette on the paper. I spray glued the paper and put it on some card stock, and cut out one of the images with a razor knife. I used this to get the fold angles right which really helped in the getting it on the trusses.

The trusses were CA'd to the styrene elevator. It was finicky, but went without any complications.

like the rest of the PE on this model, I try and solder brass to brass whenever possible. In this case it was the perfect solution. I tinned the lattice frame on all the vertical members for their full length, not knowing how much melting I would do.

I carefully put some TIX flux on all the truss edges and placed the lattice on top. Setting the RSU at about the lowest setting, I handheld the lattice on the low edge and got it aligned on the end truss and then, using the RSU tweezer handpiece, lightly (very lightly) held the two pieces together, hit the foot switch and released it as soon as I saw a puff of steam from the flux vaporizing. That took about a half second. It was almost instantaneous. Held any longer and it would have burned through both peices. 

I then went to opposite end's truss and did the same thing. To solder the narrow end, there wasn't clearance to get the tweezers in so I used the Weller iron and pressed the piecees together while I stabilzed the other end. With the ends done I went back with the RSU and did all the other trusses at their top ends and middles and used the iron for the bottoms. This whole activity was very quick and it's quite solid. I am relying on the CA to hold the trusses to the elevator, but there's a lot of pieces sharing the load.

It looks really nice and complicated. I would have hated to try and get that lattice to work with CA. Solder doesn't screw around.

I also did a small job; put the PE screens on the funnel outlets with CA. I need to make a couple more minor antenna sets and the small rear mast which I believe is also where the American Flag is displayed. These will be brass too.

I was getting ready to finish up all the railings on the island and now I just have to do some more stuff. I may remove the molded on piping and add real materials. 

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 7:02 PM

A reader on one of my other forums that I post this build suggested that instead of trying to re-finish that ruined island side, that I should laminate a piece of thin styrene to re-create the surface and get a fresh start. I thought this was a terrific idea and executed it.

I started by measuring the key dimensions and then creating a cardboard template and then transfer this to 0.010" styrene. It slipped under the angle brackets under the gun tubs and fit flush under the 2nd level gun tubs. Before installing I scraped off all the details and would replace all of them with 3D pieces.

Here's the cardboard fit onto the island.

The styrene was thin enough to wrap around the ends. I didn't like the seams on both ends anyway so covering them would be a plus. I would shape and fill the wrapped end on the other side. I used liquid cement to make the joint.

With a nice clean surface, it was time to add all the details. I located the WTD locations prior to applying the laminate and then marked those locations on the new surface. I have a new way to apply PE details. It consists of using a white, Japan-made, special "pencil" (well... it looks just like a pencil) that gently holds PE for placement. A slight twist after the CA glue sets releases the part from the pencil. The other is using Gel CA. It sets much slower, can be applied in a tiny dot that stays put, and gives you time to move the part around to align it. I previously used thin CA. While it set fast, it was almost unmanageable for me. Brian Bunger, the owner of Scale Reproductions, told me to try thick CA. What a difference!

I not completely happy with the hole I made for the open door. It's a bit ragged, but if I want it much smoother the hole would keep getting bigger and it's alrady about as big as it should be. I suppose it could be a little lower, but not any wider. I scribed lines for the portholes and doors so they would line up nicely.

You will also notice that I actually put eyebrows over the new portholes. I decided to try this and it worked pretty well. I first formed a coil about the right diameter using a round parallel jawed pliers that I bought from MicroMark. After forming the coil, I cut them apart with the flush cutters and then used the placing pencil to put them over the portholes. I also started replacing eyebrows ground off when I was doing all the filling after making the Flag Bridge mod. When I put them over the two ports in the flag bridge front, it turned out that the right side was canted towards the right and the left towards the left and it looked like the face of Wall-E. Too cute! So I had to redo it. For some reason, that redo took as much time as putting on the seven on the flat surface.

This small gauge brass wire is the fancy birds nest of twisted wire on the top of some Spanish Rioja wines. Besides being a good red, the bottle provides some added value, first with the wire, and then the foil which is also great scratch-build material.

So... it's not that you screw up. I do that plenty! It's how you recover. It's the same in restaurants, and in business of all kinds. Stuff happens! Good recoveries is where you shine.

  • Member since
    December, 2003
  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 10:05 AM

Hi Builder,

I am enjoying your build log and how you are doing the upperworks in brass.  The detailed photos your are taking is helping.  I am about to start the Lexington, but in 1/700.

  • Member since
    March, 2012
  • From: Louisville, KY
Posted by Builder 2010 on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 6:04 PM

Thank you! I don't even want to think about 1:700. !:350 is about as small as ever want to get.

Life is good!

Last year I had a purchasing dream come true when my wife and I bought a genuine Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. We had purchased a knockoff 37 years ago that was completely shot and we figured it was time to get a real one. One of the buttons on the seat cushion let go and it was a warranty item. They picked up the chair five weeks ago and shipped it back to Grand Rapids.

Today it was back. In the meantime, I was using the ottoman with a wing chair. It was all wrong, difficult to have my laptop positioned correctly and made typing all this a pain. Unfortunately, the chair was shipped in a new chair shipping box strapped to a pallet and dropped ship in front of my garage. The driver said he wasn't permitted to bring it into the house. He helped me move it in the garage and out of the rain. I then had to unpack it, and heft it into the family room.

Of course I slipped on the cardboard as I tried to move it down off the pallet and fell on my left side with the chair on top of me. I was being impulsive. I could have waited for my wife to return. I did get it in the house. I am now sitting on it and loving it, and have a sore rib, but otherwise I survived. I'm annoyed at Herman Miller for sending the chair back to a residence without having it set up in the house expecting the home owner to unpack it, get rid of a pallet, and all the cardboard, especially when they had two fellows pick up the chair in the first place.

Onto the model. I continued adding vertical ladders, and inclined ladders and ran into a connundrum. The ladders are etched with the bottom slant perpendicular to the deck on which it should sit. It may be prototypical, but it makes gluing them in a real challenge. You're attempting to super glue the ladder in place with a single needle point contact area. It's very, very insecure!

I thought I was bending the railings wrong. So I kept trying to un-bend them and bend them the other way, only to realize after screwing up a few of them, that I was being ridiculous and that the etching precludes changing that bottom angle. It would be much better for us model makers if the tapered base was parallel with the deck thereby increasing the gluing area by an order of magnitude.

So here is today's work.

Oh, and the other thing I did was put the reinforcing plate in place and re-drilling new Tri-mast mounting holes to accomodate the new mast. Again, this isn't prototypical, but it was more importan to me that the mast be properly attached, and the side railings which go on next, will properly disguise the interface. In the above picture you can see the thickness variance I had to create so the new plate would settle over the kit's wings that had the original mast mounting holes. I actually used the razor saw to slice the piece horizontally to reduce the thickness at that spot.

It's interesting to note that with just this little handling to test fit the mast I caused deformation of some of the yard arm details. Nothing permanent, just annoying. Every time I touch PE I bend something I don't want to bend. Sometimes I wonder why I even do this stuff, and then I look at how fabulous ship models look when all the bells and whistles have bells and whistles and it makes all the aggravation worth it. Kind of like childbirth and raising kids, only more important. Boy... am I going to get slammed for that one.

  • Member since
    February, 2018
Posted by JSamples on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 8:29 PM
Hey fellow Kentuckian. I new to the forums here. I also have the 1/350 Essex with PE set. I have no experience with PE and after following your build, I'm a little nervous about using it. I do plan on building other kits before starting on the Essex though. I have enjoyed reading your post and I have subscribed to it as well. Your pictures are very detailed and I look forward to future posts


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