Revell 1/196 USS Constitution

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Revell 1/196 USS Constitution

  • Well, what do you think about this model ? is it as succesful as the HMS Victory ? which modification of the ship does it represent ? (barbary wars ? war of 1812 ? manifest destiny years ? )


    Don't surrender the ship !
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  • It was originally issued in 1965, so it's forty years old now.  (The vast majority of plastic sailing ships currently on the market are of that vintage - or older.  Revell hasn't released a new sailing ship kit since 1977.)  It does show its age in various ways.  My own personal opinion of it, however, is pretty high. 

    It's based on a series of plans by George M. Campbell that were drawn on commission from the Smithsonian Institution, which then used them to commission a model of its own on 1/48 scale.  Mr. Campbell was one of the best in the business.  His intention was to reconstruct the ship's configuration as of 1814.  Doing that, unfortunately, is quite a challenge.  (The ship has been modified many, many times since she was launched, in 1797.) 

    Mr. Campbell's principal source seems to have been the famous "Isaac Hull model," which apparently was presented to Captain Hull during or shortly after the War of 1812 and is currently in the Peabody-Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts.  The Hull model presents lots of problems to researchers.  The hull and deck furniture are extremely crude; the model obviously was built in a hurry by somebody who had only the most basic tools and materials at his disposal.  The rigging, on the other hand, is beautifully done.  It's widely believed that the model was built by a sailor (or maybe more than one) who, though his modeling skills were severely limited, knew the rigging of that particular ship intimately.

    Research since the 1960s has turned up some additional information about the ship, but in general Mr. Campbell's plans (and the Revell kit) hold up pretty well.  Various folks have raised some questions about such things as the gunport lid configuration and the color scheme, but I've never read anything that challenged the basic accuracy of the kit.

    It does have its weaknesses - many of which are endemic to the limitations of plastic kit production.  The bulwarks are too thin.  (If they were made to scale thickness they'd be plagued by sink marks.)  Each of the two full-length decks (main deck and spar deck) is molded in three pieces - fore, center, and aft.  Even when the molds were new those deck pieces didn't fit well, and the problem is exacerbated in recent reissues by warping.  (Quite a few modelers have solved that problem by covering the plastic deck parts with wood strips.)  Some of the fittings are quite nicely detailed (e.g., the steering wheel and the hulls of the boats), but others are a bit on the crude side (e.g., the capstan).  And of course Revell felt obliged to make all the components out of styrene, which has its limitations.  (I'd strongly recommend that anybody tackling this kit figure on replacing the plastic belaying pins with aftermarket ones, and the plastic hammock netting stanchions with bent wire.)  The kit has plastic-coated-thread "shrouds and ratlines," which I've ranted about at depressing length elsewhere in this Forum so I won't do so now.  On the other hand the "carved" detail at the bow and stern is exquisite - on the same level of quality as the best Heller examples.  And the crew figures are great.

    The bottom line is that, with a considerable amount of work, some aftermarket parts (e.g., deadeyes and blocks - though the Revell plastic ones are preferable to Heller's), and some scratchbuilt details (e.g., the interiors of the boats), this kit can be the basis for a first-rate scale model.  I'd certainly rate it among the top ten plastic sailing ship kits that have come to my attention - and probably the top five. 

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • I think I built this kit 7 or 8 years ago(I know it was a Constitution and the 1/196 seems about the right scale), as my first sailing ship kit, and it was a fairly nice kit to put together.  As for accuracy I have no clue since back then it was just OOTB builds for me, and as far as I was cncerned the instructions were what the real thing was.  Oh how naive I was.  Smile [:)]

    Robert And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Badge of Fame and/or Shame

  • Professor Tilley, I thank you most for the review but I think I'm misunderstood. I did not meant the 1/96 huge model (about 1 meter long), I meant the 1/196 one which appears on the revell monogram catalog and which is about 40cm long -exactly same as the 1/220 HMS Victory. What about this little one ?


    Don't surrender the ship !
  • This is known as a "Quick Build" kit.  Very easy and fun to assemble, however, very crude and lacking in detail.



  • Ouch!  My fault entirely.  The devastating combination of middle-aged eyes and senile brain missed the "1" in front of "96."

    Revell has actually issued at least five kits labeled Constitution over the years, and their precise scales are somewhat in doubt.  The one Kapudan is talking about is listed in Dr. Graham's book, Remembering Revell Model Kits, as being on 1/192 scale.  As we've established in several other threads, little is to be gained from arguing over points like that.  The truth seems to be that the people responsible for printing the scales on the boxes of plastic sailing ship kits are not the same people who design them.  I suspect the folks working for Revell nowadays have little if any interest in the accuracy of such figures.

    Anyway, this is the second-smallest of the five.  (The smallest was a tiny "ship in a bottle" kit that Revell acquired from a company called Gowland, in the very early fifties.  According to Dr. Graham it was never sold in a box with the Revell name on it, but was distributed by Revell for a couple of years.  Ah, the delights of plastic kit trivia.)  The 1/196 (or 1/192) kit was the very first sailing ship Revell produced.  It was originally released in 1956, and caused quite a sensation.  In my personal opinion it still holds up remarkably well - with some reservations.

    It attempts to depict the ship as she appeared in the 1830s, with raised bulwarks and a figurehead representing Andrew Jackson.  I think the designers actually worked from the set of plans for the ship that the Navy Department published in the 1920s, when the ship was undergoing a major restoration.  The kit looks about like the ship did at the time the kit was released - with the exception of the figurehead.

    In the 1950s such features as the molded "copper sheathing" on the hull and the intricate carvings on the bow and stern were considered the state of the art.  The only competition in the sailing ship kit field came from companies like Model Shipways, A.J. Fisher, and Marine Models.  The latter two made Constitution kits that were bigger and far more expensive than the Revell one (which cost $3.00) - and not as well detailed.  The typical wood kit in those days had a machine-carved hull, which was solid up to the level of the highest full-length deck (in this case the spar deck).  The "guns" on the main deck would be "dummies" - cast or turned metal replicas of the outer few feet of the barrel, with pins on their rear ends that plugged into holes the modeler had to drill in the hull.  The Revell Constitution had little shelves cast into the inside of the hull under the gunports, and nicely-cast replicas of the guns, complete with carriages, sitting on the shelves and poking out through genuine open ports.  Still pretty impressive. 

    The kit's biggest weakness, in my opinion, is the way Revell handled the big hatch in the spar deck amidships - the one under the stowed boat.  The smooth, oblong areas are supposed to be a hatch, with some deck beams spanning it, opening onto the main deck below.  That big, flat, smooth area just doesn't represent how the ship was built.  (Apparently the Revell designers were conscious of the problem.  Their H.M.S. Victory, originally released in 1959, has two full-length decks, so the viewer can look down under the boats and see the upper gun deck.)  

    Fixing that would be a bit of a project - but certainly possible.  One could cut away the plastic in way of the "hatch" and build part of the main deck - perhaps using scribed styrene sheet.  A complete main deck wouldn't be necessary - just enough of it to look convincing through the hatch.

    Some modelers have criticized this kit because the windows in the stern are molded solid.  I think that may in fact have been the best way to handle that particular detail.  Painted glossy dark blue or black, with neatly-painted window frames, they wouldn't look bad.  

    Some of the other details don't quite come up to modern standards.  The carriages of the carronades, for instance, are cast integrally with the spar deck.  The masts and yards make inevitable compromises to the limitations of injection-molded plastic (though no more so than plenty of more recent kits).  And this was Revell's first attempt at solving the Great Ratline Problem.  In its first few incarnations the kit had those dreadful plastic-coated-thread "shroud and ratline assemblies."  (That was, in fact, an invention that Revell introduced with this kit.  May the person who came up with that idea - well, never mind.)  More recent reissues have included injection-molded "shroud and ratline assemblies," which arguably are even worse.  The deadeyes and the lanyards connecting them are also molded as styrene units; they don't really look like deadeyes connected by lanyards.  (In all honesty, though, on such a small scale not many modelers rig deadeyes to scale.)  The chain plates are also pretty crude. 

    The bottom line, though, is that, in my opinion, this was a great kit for 1956 and a pretty decent one for 2006.  That problem with the main hatch really cries out to be fixed, but most of the other weaknesses of the kit are endemic to small-scale plastic sailing ships.  It could, with a considerable amount of work, be made into a serious scale model.  The basic material is certainly there.

    In the late sixties and early seventies Revell issued a small series of sailing ship kits that were intended to attract beginners.  They were about two feet long, and were labeled "Simplified" or "Quick Build."  Most of them (there were a couple of exceptions) were scaled-down versions of larger kits.  The "Simplified" Constitution appeared in 1969.  Dr. Graham's book gives it a scale of 1/159, and adds that "this twenty-two inch model is midway between the original small Constitution and the large, three-foot Constitution."  It was, in fact, a scaled-down and simplified version of the latter - with such features as gun carriages cast integrally with the main deck and highly simplified masts and yards.  Like the big kit, it represented the ship's 1814 configuration.  That may be the kit scottrc is talking about.  On the other hand, I think the old 1956 kit also appeared with a "Quick Build" label at least once.  So far as I know, the parts in that kit were identical to the originals (except for the "shroud and ratline assemblies"); the big difference was in the instructions, which suggested an extremely simplified rendition of the rigging.

    Revell Constitution Number 5 was a strange thing called a  "wall plaque" kit, issued in 1972 as part of a three-kit series that also included a Cutty Sark and a "Spanish Galleon."  According to Dr. Graham, "these three wall plaques were based on development materials used for the old full-hull models, but were completely new molds.  They are not just half-hulls, but project out from the plaque slightly.  Authentic old maps for the backgrounds."  Ugh.

    Hope that helps a little.  At least I'm talking about the right kit this time - I think.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Like always, your review and remarks are decision-making professor Tilley, thank you. Your review evoked mixed toughts in my mind. It's excellent to hear that the kit is accurate and detail is good but It's very annoying that the kit represents the ship in its 1830's form. The reason I asked for a review is that, I need a USS constitution model to complete my trio of HMS Victory, IJN Mikasa and Constitution; ships that won empires for their nations. As there is only one Mikasa in styrene (and this is a breathtaking kit) and it's in 1/350 scale, the other two models must be comparable in size -neither too big nor too small-. Moreover, they must represent the ships in their moment of glory. Yet I found a possibility to have a 1814 constitution in 1/192 I think. Revell germany has a 40cm "1/150" (an utter lie) USS United States. the boxart and some photos of the hull and parts convinced me that it's just a reworked Constitution. The revision seems to effect only the bow and stern; the bow has a billet head and the taffrail is a solid, windowless plank. It's very important that the bow is reworked, this should be the hardest part to alter. Taffrail seems a lot easier. All to do is to obtain, somehow, a Constitution taffrail and replace the solid one. then comes cutting off the bulkheads and superdetailing the spar deck hatch. Does it sound feasible to you Professor ?
    Don't surrender the ship !
  • I "was" doing this exact same modifiaction to the Revell Germany "United States" kit before I had a flood in the workshop that destroyed it.   Most of the kit was being fabricated in Basewood, which expands when it gets soaked and the kit literally blew apart.  I was making the kit to resemble a "44" from the drawings in  Chappell's  The History of American Sailing Navy.

    I ended up cutting off all plastic to the maindeck and replacing the taffs, bulwarks, and beakheads with basewood strips.  I replaced the deck with a scratchbuilt one because I didn't like all the molded in features that made it look like a toy.   I was also carving a new stern cabin since the kit's is about 1/3 smaller than it should have been.  All the spars and masts were being made from basewood dowels.  In otherwords, about all I used from the kit was the lower hull, cannons, some of the fittings, and gun decks.

    I was having a lot of fun with this project and would like to attempt it again once some of my other projects are complete.  The nice thing about the size of this kit is that it would fit in a shadow box.



  • Wow ! Mr. Scott, that's certainly a major project which will produce an awesome model but this surpasses my competence I'm afraid Smile [:)] all I want is an acceptable looking replica with enough detail to classify it as a "scale model" (I use professor Tilley's definition). The fault with stern galleries is really annoying Sleepy [|)] I don't know how I can fix them, One thing is certain that I can't carve them from scratch. Oh also I forgot to mention two other points: 1st) opening the "closed" bow and putting rope nets instead of solid bulwarks; 2nd) replacing all the masts and spars of course, as you do, with ones of correct height and putting correct number of spars to each mast.

    My 2 cents [2c]


    Don't surrender the ship !
  • I can't be of much help here, as I've never actually seen the Revell United States kit.  I've only seen pictures of the box art on the Revell Germany website - and we all know how unreliable such artwork can be.

    I have the impression that the U.S. kit is indeed just a slightly modified Constitution.  And not modified enough.  I think we had a post a few months ago from a United States enthusiast who lambasted the kit pretty thoroughly because it didn't include the big, prominent feature that distinguished the real U.S.:  the raised quarterdeck.  (Revell did include that feature on its 1/96 United States kit, but apparently not on the smaller one.)  I don't know whether Revell bothered to change the bow ornamentation or not.  (Seems like they must have done something to it.  Andy Jackson clearly doesn't belong on the bow of the United States.)   I imagine they changed the name on the transom - or omitted it.  But frankly I don't trust those people.  When it comes to recycling old kits with new names they're capable of just about anything.  (I will never forgive them for their H.M.S. Beagle scam.  Neither, I suspect, will Charles Darwin.)

    I can offer one piece of information regarding the taffrail - if the readership still has any confidence left in my memory.  (Frankly I don't.)  Quite a few years ago I happened to be on board the Constitution while one of the best living sources of information about the ship, Cdr. (later Capt.) Tyrone Martin, was her commanding officer.  He had I had a brief but, for me, memorable and informative conversation about the changes the ship had gone through during her career.  At one point he gestured emphatically at what he called "those big square holes" in the taffrail and explained that, according to the research he'd done, they had been cut long after the ship's active service ended.  When I described them as "gunports," Cdr. Martin said "they aren't gunports.  They're just holes, and they shouldn't be there."  So if the U.S. kit comes with a solid taffrail, it's probably authentic for the Constitution. 

    The problem with the transom and quarter galleries is simply that they represent the ones that were fitted to the ship later in her career.  At that time there were, if memory serves, three windows in the transom.  During the War of 1812 there were six (or maybe it was seven), and the carvings were considerably more elaborate.  

    The old Constitution kit comes with four yards - lower, topsail, topgallant, and royal - on each mast.  I imagine the United States kit uses the same parts.  For most of either ship's career, that's correct.  There's evidence that the Constitution was fitted with one more yard, called a skysail yard, on each mast during part of the War of 1812.  Remember, though, that in those days royals and skysails were often "set flying" - i.e., stowed on deck unless they were actually in use, then hoisted temporarily into position with the halyards.  By 1812 the royal yards most likely were left aloft most of the time, but I suspect the skysail yards spent a good deal of their time on deck.  If you rig your 1812-vintage frigate with royal yards, and ignore the skysails, you'll be perfectly safe.  One change you might want to make is to shave off the representations of the jackstays on top of the yards.  The jackstay didn't come into widespread use until after the War of 1812.

    That's about all I can offer.  Oh - there are in fact two Mikasa kits.  In addition to the beautiful new Hasegawa one, there's one on 1/700 scale from a small Japanese company called Sealsmodel.  It's superb kit - one of the best ever on the scale.  I've got one about half finished; I confess the arrival of the Hasegawa 1/350 kit discouraged me a bit.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • I have a number of the old Constititution kits lying around both built and unbuilt, and on a wim, to try my conversion with, decided to blow $30 on the  Revell Germany release of the United States.

    To conclude, this is the same kit as the Constitution.  The only difference is the nameplate, box art, and one kit is made by Revell Germany, sells for $30, and the other by Revell US and retails for $15.  Even the instructions and part numbers are identical.



  • Scott - Does that United States kit have the Andrew Jackson figurehead?  If so, Revell is pulling an even more disreputable stunt than usual.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Nope, no figurehead.

    Go figure!


  • Interesting!  On the old Constitution kit, as I remember it, the carved trailboards at the bow curve up gently from the hawseholes to end under a small platform on which Andy stands; behind him is a vertical "timber" with a D-shaped pin on it that fits in a hole in the president's back.  Does the United States kit simply omit the figurehead and leave that awkward gap where it would have been?  Or did our friends at Revell take the trouble to modify the trailboards, so they sweep up and almost touch the bowsprit?  And did they change the lettering on the stern?  If the trailboards are extended and the transom doesn't have the words "United States" on it, the kit just might do what Kapudan has in mind.

    Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • The trailboards sweep up to a point and curl so there is no gap and the bow is fully enclosed.  It represents the Constititution when it didn't have a figurhead and the post 1812 configuration.  The stern plate above the transome doesn't have any raised lettering, just a blank spot where you apply a decal.  The stern galley only has the three windows.

    The thickness of the plastic, raised and enclosed bulwarks, and fully enclosed bow makes this little model look almost like the Constititution did when it had that building built over its maindecks.  In fact, I think it looks like Noahs Ark with masts if I was to make it a waterline model.  That was why I was scratchbuilding the hullworks from the gundeck on up.