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What's up with the BIG Heller kits?

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  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
What's up with the BIG Heller kits?
Posted by David_K on Friday, April 18, 2014 4:35 PM

Hi All-

So here's a new thread that may be a tiresome subject.

Please allow me to preface my queries by saying that I hope to avoid the *bashing* of a certain large scale Heller kit (cough-Soleil Royal-cough)...I'm just looking for info on build-ability of kits, both in terms of kit quality, as well as skill level required.

On to my observation/question:

Looking online for WIPs and build reviews for the Big Heller kits is a crap shoot....I can find a number of initial posts from those starting a build, but very often they continue for a number of progress updates, and finally end abruptly, with no conclusion.  Is this likely because the builder:

Lost interest and didn't finish the build?

Realized they weren't up to the challenge and bowed out?

Reached an impasse, or otherwise got frustrated by the kit's shortfalls?

Finished the build, but just decided to no longer document his/her progress (seems unlikely)?

The Pete Coleman Victory Forum is obviously a great place to find info for builds of the HMS Victory, so I concede that there IS a place to follow builds and gain insight into planning for a similar project....but, even there I've seen numerous dead-end threads, and especially in the Soleil Royal section they have there.

What I'm getting at is this:

I recently have obtained both of the Big Heller kits, and I am ambitiously thinking that I can start building one of them next year.  Which one to build first still remains to be seen (they both have terrible instructions!)...my concern is twofold: 

-Are the kits buildable, or are they fraught with pitfalls...I get discouraged by ill-fitting parts, and incorrect assembly instructions.

-Do I have the chops to pull one of these builds off?  After going through the parts, and reading the giant instruction sheets of both kits, the impression is mindblowingly intense!  I felt similarly when I built my first ship kit a few years ago (and that was a low-end basic kit), so I suppose I've come a long way since then...but seriously, I wonder if these Heller kits are on a whole different level....they seem to be.  Comparatively, the Imai kits I've been building seem super-simple now!

Anyone with experience building either of these kits (Victory, Soleil Royal)....I would like to hear your impressions about the buildability of them, things to look out for, and whether it will be a 5-year process of slowly descending into a spiral of madness, from which I may never return?

What's the deal?

David

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  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, April 18, 2014 5:09 PM

We'll, I won't repeat any of my various criticisms of the Soleil Royal (probably my un-favorite kit of all time). Maybe it's relevant to mention that I did build one about 35 tears ago, and,as I remember, it took me about two years.  (That was fairly steady spare-time work while I was in grad school.) The time includes quite a few hours of making my own rigging line, wood decks, etc. - most of which I now regard as a waste of time given the ridiculous-looking finished product.

One practical matter that may be relevant:  regardless of what one thinks of the kits otherwise, the blocks and deadeyes in both the SR and the Victory kits are worthless.  (A two-piece rigid mold can't produce a part with holes in it and a groove around it.). To replace them with wood or metal aftermarket parts would cost several hundred dollars (though not all at once).

Dave, I'm sure you could handle either of those kits, though they'd take at least a couple of years apiece to finish to your standards.  The big Heller kit that I think you ought to consider, though, is the 1/75 La Reale.  For my money it's the best detailed and most accurate of the batch, and I think it's particularly well suited to your distinctive style.  I strongly recommend checking it out.

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

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Friday, April 18, 2014 5:40 PM

Thanks, John!

In fact, I have a Heller La Reale in the closet...it was donated to me by a member of this forum (thanks again, Rob!)...a ferry trip across Puget Sound and a couple hours hanging out with a skilled ship modeler was great price to pay for such a sweet model!

I've heard before that people regard the La Reale De France as a top-notch kit...maybe I should consider it for an upcoming build.  I should see if I can find a WIP or build log of that one...

I know what you mean about the deadeyes in the V and SR...they're just discs with 3 holes...the *groove* is hardly groovy, and I wouldn't tempt fate by trying to wrap a shroud end around it...that would be an exercise in frustration many, many times over!

I can see how adding after market parts can get spendy, especially with the vast numbers of small parts to account for....but considering that a kit of this magnitude will take so much time to finish...the value per hour of entertainment is still pretty reasonable...

One thing I noticed in the instructions for the Victory was that Heller had the forethought to mold the deadeyes in the correct distance from each other, and opposing each other on the sprues, so that the lanyards can be run BEFORE removing the deadeyes...kind of a nifty built-in deadeye distance gauge!...

Too bad the parts won't hold a shroud!  haha

Anyway, thanks again for the insight, I've got a couple more Imai kits to start and finish before I make my decision, but I definitely want to be sure I'm making a good choice for myself....

D

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, April 18, 2014 6:25 PM

You've reminded me of one other thing anybody undertaking the Heller Victory or SR needs to know:  the instructions are scandalous.  Especially the English "translations."  These strange documents apparently were written by somebody who (a) couldn't read French, and (b) hadn't tried to build either of the models.  (I've heard that the English instructions for the brief incarnations in Imai boxes are somewhat better.). Even in French, though, the instructions are awful - vague, poorly written, and laden with errors (especially when it comes to rigging, which, it seems, nobody at Heller understood.  To build either of those kits, even out of the box, be prepared to do a lot of reading.

That any company would enclose such written garbage in any kit - let alone one at that kind of price - is a scandal of the hobby industry.  I've been b----ing about it, in print, in letters, and on the web, for about thirty-five years, but I've seen no evidence that Heller has listened,

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

  • Member since
    August 2011
  • From: Earth, for now
Posted by BashMonkey on Friday, April 18, 2014 8:38 PM
Seams appropriate to pose this question here ...how about the "other" big Heller boats, the windjammers. I just got ahold of the five masted 1/150 scale Pruessan kit and its quite large. Any observations, warnings to be aware of?

 ALL OF YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, April 19, 2014 1:17 AM

HMS Victory:

I've spent four years and am on the upper gun deck. Granted I have put it aside for a year (twice).

There are no problems with the kit itself.

I have the Imai instructions which are in Japanese and are infinitely more useful than the Heller ones.

One significant problem is AMS because the scale is large enough that it just invites scratchbuilding.

But the task is also overwhelming and there's really no way to build it out of sequence to entertain yourself.

There are 100 guns and each is nine parts.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    July 2013
Posted by steve5 on Saturday, April 19, 2014 4:20 AM

the one thing a lot of you blokes seem to forget it's a model and I loved making it.,I don't have any friends that are into modeling and they love looking at my attempt of the soleil royal., it's not up to the standard of most of you fellows but i'm proud of it .,I only wish hellar would do some more really big kits

 

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Saturday, April 19, 2014 9:30 AM

I have been working on the Soleil Royale for about ten years now, so I would envy anyone who could build it in a year. It is one of those complex kits that you burn out on quickly and have to put it aside to work on something simpler for awhile. I got into the rigging a couple of years ago, and that has really slowed me down. I find I can only work on rigging about half an hour at a time, and must take a long break.  The concentration is wearying.  And there is so much rigging! Essentially the SR is a four-master, with shrouds and ratlines on the sprit mast as well as the others.

But I really like the kit. It is definitely buildable.  It is just that there are so many parts and details.  The rigging diagrams in the instructions are quite good compared to other sail ships I have built.  Molding is great, fit is fairly good.

I always pitch the plastic rigging fittings and buy aftermarket blocks and deadeyes, like Mr. Tilley.  That is getting harder to do since the vendors I have relied on in the past seem to be reducing their lines of rigging fittings.

Even partially complete, the SR always draws much attention when I bring it to model club meetings for a wip show-and-tell.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Saturday, April 19, 2014 9:49 AM

Ten years, Don?  Dang!  But it's obvious that you are doing a lot of building of other projects along the way...

Good to know the kits are sound, anyway...when the time comes, I'll definitely be making investments in rigging blocks and deadeyes (and I'll learn how to make chainplates), and better line.  The SR I have is the Imai boxing, and has Imai line (which I don't mind too much, though there's only four diameters, and they're all dark brown)...but the Victory has two spools of this crummy white thread which is obviously not worth using.  NOTE: I actually emailed Heller about a couple of broken parts, and they said they would send the replacements "in a weekend"....nice that they take care of their customers!

I will definitely have to get ahold of some of the Imai instructions for both kits...my SR has the Aurora instructions, and the Victory has the translated Heller ones...but it sounds like the Imai plans are the best for illustrations?  I should see what kind of instructions the La Reale has...

This is good info, you guys...thanks a bunch!

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     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • From: Albany, NY
Posted by jeffpez on Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:19 AM

Your own expectations are the vital factor in determining whether the kits are of a good quality or junk. I'm firmly in Don's camp on this and continue to enjoy building the SR. I'm not a sailer, didn't live when the ships sailed and have utterly no idea how they're supposed to look so I'm more than happy to build it out of the box. I'm well into my second year and still have the bulk of the rigging left. My problem is that I find it tedious and can only take it for a few weeks and have to stop, sometimes for many months. The ship itself went together without any major issues and I enjoyed doing it. There's a significant amout of painting but I also enjoyed doing that and love the way the ship looks, even without too much rigging not to mention the upper masts. I also suggest after market parts. As for the instructions there are alternatives. The original release was by Aurora and the plans were in English and very readable. I have them available for anyone who wants them in both PDF and printed versions. Send me an email address or mailing address and I'll get them out to you. Because of the complexity of the rigging the printed version, on 11x17" paper, may be a better alternative, especially if your eyes are not as young as they once were. Somewhere I also have the Imai instructions (in Japanese) and in printed form only so if you  want them I'll send out a search party. With something this complex another perspective when it comes to illustrations can't hurt but so far I haven't taken my own advice. Because you've taken the time to reach out about the builds then I'd say ignore the negative folks and start building. You'll love it!

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:30 AM

David- buy your blocks and line as you go one part at a time . I spent well over $100 on the cable, messenger and gun tackle alone. I just looped line around the lower deck guns and middle deck guns and will only rig the upper deck guns fully where they are visible in the middle of the ship from above.

But there's most of it sitting in a box still.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:36 AM

Thanks, Jeff!  Like I said, I've got a couple builds to go this year before I dig into one of these Heller kits that are lurking in the corner (gotta hone my skills just a bit more!), but I definitely will be excited to start!  I'd love to get a copy of the Imai plans for either or both of the SR or Victory kits...if you'd be willing to mail me a set, I'll happily cover the shipping/printing cost. (PM to follow)....I already have the Aurora plans, but I want as much reference as I can get ahold of, you know?

Thanks again!

Dave

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Saturday, April 19, 2014 10:39 AM

GM-

Yes, I'll be piece-mealing the after market fittings/line...good call!  I'll have to look for a reliable source of good fittings at decent prices...

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    September 2005
  • From: Groton, CT
Posted by warshipguy on Saturday, April 19, 2014 3:56 PM

John and I respectfully disagree on our assessments of the Le Soleil Royal. I have found period drawings showing that the most oft-criticized aspect of the kit, the shallowness of the lower hull, was actually a frequent characteristic of French ships of the period. That said, the kit does have its flaws, such as the closed stern galleries, the seeming lack of deck furniture, the lack of a way to attach the yards, etc. Several years ago, we had a lengthy post going called Le Soleil Royal: The Ultimate Building Guide that addresses various corrections to the basic kit. You should check it out.

I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed building the kit, as well as the Victory and Le Chebec.

Bill

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Saturday, April 19, 2014 8:56 PM

Bill-

Yes, I've read though the Ultimate Building guide...it IS lengthy!  That thread definitely goes over a lot of details regarding the kit, as well as a lot of back and forth regarding the controversial "shortcomings."

It's a good reference point, for sure!

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    August 2011
  • From: Earth, for now
Posted by BashMonkey on Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:00 PM
So no one has built a big Heller windjammer? Rats...

BTW I also have the Soleil Royal in storage.

 ALL OF YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, April 25, 2014 1:04 AM

I have the Pourquoi Pas? in my stash. It looks to be a good model.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Friday, April 25, 2014 9:17 AM

BashMonkey
So no one has built a big Heller windjammer? Rats...

BTW I also have the Soleil Royal in storage.

While I have not finished one of the larger scale ones, I did build one of the medium scale ones, the French SOL le Superbe. It gave me a Superbe result. :-)

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    July 2006
Posted by Michael D. on Friday, April 25, 2014 9:44 AM

Hi David,

I've been on both ends of the spectrum building these models. SR took me 8.5 months to complete including ditching the plastic sails for tissue paper, opening up the galleries and setting her in a waterline, everything else out of box, I also had no fitment issues and I'm very pleased with results and love the compliments.  Victory on the other hand is going on 7 years now primarily because I'm back dating her to 1765 and have had fitment issues regarding the poop deck and the stern not mating up correctly.

I'm of the mind set to build to your own satisfaction and you can't go wrong, as these kits produce stunning displays.

Michael D.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Friday, April 25, 2014 12:35 PM

For what little it's worth, I did finish the Heller Soleil Royal, about thirty-five years ago when it was a brand-new kit.  By the time I got done with it (about two years after I'd started), I was thoroughly fed up with it - and, as those who've read the early Forum threads on this subject know, I still am.  But the fact that I think a kit is junk is no reason for others to decline to build it.  Surely everybody on this Forum knows what I identify as the problems with the kit are; it's for each individual modeler to decide how serious those problems are.

Shortly after I published a review of the SR in a British magazine, another such publication sent me a review copy of the (brand new) Heller Victory.  That one is a totally different kettle of fish.  It has its weaknesses (the hundreds of useless rigging parts, the empty small boats, etc.),  but every kit does.  In my opinion the Heller kit is the most accurate rendering of the Victory in kit form - even surpassing, in some ways, the 1/72 one from Calder/Jotika.  (The latter doesn't faithfully reproduce the "anchor stock" planking on the wales, and it uses "dummy" gun barrels on the lower decks.)  But it is an enormous project.  I never started mine (I gave the kit away prior to a change of residence), and, apart from a few pictures in magazines and ads, I've never seen one finished.  But in the years I've been on this Forum I've seen a lot of them started.

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

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Friday, April 25, 2014 12:37 PM
Hi, mike-
I'm glad to see your reply on this thread...I've read your sr log at the Pete Coleman site, and I am very impressed! I'll be using your sr log for reference, and I hope you don't mind if I consult you from time to time during my adventure?
Did you really use the kit blocks, deadeyes, and rigging line? Your tissue sails are awesome!
Again, very very well done!
Do you also have a wip for your victory over there?
I wholeheartedly agree with your philosophy of building, especially with a kit such as this...
David
        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    July 2006
Posted by Michael D. on Friday, April 25, 2014 2:19 PM

Hi David,

I wouldn't mind at all helping out when I can and yes I did use the kit supplied blocks and deadeyes. Regarding the thread, I did start out using some of it for the canons and quickly realized it was junk so I purchased Coats and Clark linen thread for the remainder of the build.

As for my Victory wip, it's in the Victory modellers diary under Michael's Victory and I appreciate you taking the time to look, also I'll be following your build when the times come.

Michael

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, April 25, 2014 2:43 PM

Mine is under Bill's Victory

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Friday, April 25, 2014 6:15 PM

Thanks, Michael!

I'll be sure and look over your (and yours, Bill!) WIPs over at Pete C....

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    July 2010
  • From: Tempe AZ
Posted by docidle on Friday, April 25, 2014 7:47 PM

Micheal,

I too have seen and loved your SR and Victory builds over at Pete C's.  I first saw it a few years back and convinced me to get the SR although I have yet to build it.  I wanted to get my chops back up before I tackled it.

GM,

I'll have to pop back over to Pete C's tonight and check out your Victory build!

Bash Monkey,

If I ever get through a good portion of my stash I thought building the 1/150 five masted Preussen.  

Steve

       

 

 

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Sunday, April 27, 2014 12:15 PM

I went through and read both of them...dang!  Incredible stuff!

GM, you continue to impress...

Michael, one thing I noticed is that, while both of them are terrific builds, you definitely are going further into mods with your Victory, as compared to your Soleil Royal (again, both very impressive!)...

I'm inspired!

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    January 2013
Posted by jibber on Sunday, April 27, 2014 1:49 PM

David, I'm on my second Royal and about 2/3 of the way completed but for the past year or so I've been involved in Group Builds and get to it in pieces. I posted on this forum a few months back and included some pics but it seems the rest of the year is already tied up. My plan is to get to her sometime in late fall. I can tell you the problem I see with me is that I get fatigued with the repetition of the many guns, rigging etc so I take it in stages that way I stay fresh. When I get back to it I'll finish it as a WIP. These are very difficult builds and I think you can get over your head especially with the rigging. Everybody thats ever built one knows it takes skill and patience or you'll walk away from it. I though long and hard about building the second one and my main reason was that I gave away my first and I wanted one for the house. They're really a beautiful ship especially in 1/100.

Terry  

  • Member since
    July 2006
Posted by Michael D. on Sunday, April 27, 2014 9:45 PM

Thanks David. I was just getting back into ship modeling when I started the SR and yes the mods to Victory are extensive and now that I'm at the rigging stage hopefully things will move along and I can complete her soon so I can start my next project.

Michael

  • Member since
    March 2012
  • From: Marysville, WA
Posted by David_K on Monday, April 28, 2014 5:33 PM

Here's an interesting new twist to the topic...

Does anyone who's built a SR or a Victory have any regrets, in terms of things they would have DONE or NOT DONE?  For example, does anyone wish they'd have made more modifications, or substituted for after-market parts, or maybe made such changes and felt it was unsuccessful?  One obvious possibility would be something like detailing parts that are unseen on the finished model (cannons, interior cabins?)...

JTilley, if you're still following this thread, my guess would be that you regret opening the box to begin with!!  *laughoutloud*

I don't wish to re-open the can of worms on how terribly anyone regards the kit ...

...and I say that with the utmost respect and tongue-in-cheek irreverence!  (I know sarcasm can be lost in the translation of typed messages!)

Dave

        _~
     _~ )_)_~
     )_))_))_)
     _!__!__!_         
     (_D_P_K_)
   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~

Current Project:  Imai/ERTL Spanish Galleon #2

Recently Finished: Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark

Next Up:  ???

 

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Monday, April 28, 2014 6:09 PM

Sure- On Victory, I've hit a significant stalling point which is how to represent the visible decks.  These include the weather decks and the visible central area of the upper gun deck visible through the boat beams.

The pluses of the kit are that the gun decks are in two halfs split stem-to-stern, in order to get them down into the wider parts of the hull.

The minuses- overdone grain, recessed pitch joints, incorrect plank butt pattern.

I painted the lowest two a warm grey which looks fine as there's not much to see through the gun ports.

I first tried to replace the upper deck with a single large piece of styrene (a for-rent sign) that I was going to mask and paint planks onto. Someone creative may want to try that with a digital printer. I quickly gave up.

My next idea was to buy prescribed basswood and scribe in the plank butts. Maybe a little better, but then you get the monotony of a single piece of wood.

It was suggested that laying up the deck with scale planks over the plastic works. My hesitations were that it would raise the guns up too high in their ports, that it would bury the hatch and grating coamings somewhat, and that it would be very hard to do.

But recently I tried just that technique on my WIP yacht America. I put a little effort into setting recessed deck supports into the hull to keep the deck level where it belongs. That actually was really a chore on America because Revell has a continuous waterway channel cast onto the inside of the bulwark, plus a bunch of over grained stanchions and horizontal planks. It all had to go.

On Victory however, it's a lot easier. Because the deck is split and has no rigidity, there are a whole bunch of little plastic beams that get glued in.

Another story there- Heller famously got the numbering wrong in the illustrations and it's a nightmare. But I replaced them all with square brass tubing that made the hull much more rigid, AND I was able to camber them.

So setting those low, installing the plastic deck with all of the coamings removed, and planking it will be the way to go. That way I can have a king plank, too.

Which type of glue to use is a little bit of a trial. I used CA on the yacht, which allowed me to work fast. But inevitably a little gets up on the top, and it doesn't take stain so the little guys were pressed to "sand" the decks. But laying the planks is downright FUN! Rather than precut the planks, I trace the beam locations onto the base layer, lay down a strip and "chop" it in place with a very sharp razor blade.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

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