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Heller Soleil Royal…..the ultimate building guide.

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  • Member since
    January 2005
  • From: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Heller Soleil Royal…..the ultimate building guide.
Posted by bryan01 on Monday, September 18, 2006 4:35 PM

Through the years a lot of discussion has been going on about the Heller Soleil Royal.

Some people have praised this kit into heaven because of its beauty while others have burned it down to the ground because of its many inaccuracies. The former will build this kit right out of the box and be impressed by the result, the latter would rather send it back to France and demand a refund.

Fact is, a lot of modelers have this infamous kit in their stash but are hesitating to start work on it because of the many negative comments.

So, the question is: assuming one would like to spend the time, energy and money, is it possible to turn this kit into a reasonable representation of the real ship?

I invite you all to contribute to this thread and share your knowledge, stories and experiences thus creating the Ultimate Soleil Royal Building Guide. But please be fair. Don’t just say this is wrong or that could have been better. Offer solutions as well.

This way, anyone wanting to build this kit in a historically accurate manner will find within this thread the best reference this forum has to offer.

 

 

Bryan
  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: The green shires of England
Posted by GeorgeW on Monday, September 18, 2006 6:17 PM

Hello Bryan,

It has been a long time since I built this kit, and I no longer have it, but I thought members might like to see a picture of what you are talking about if they don't already know. Anyway its a start for your new thread.

I rigged the model using Dr Anderson's book and other sources which proved a lot clearer than the Heller instructions!

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, September 18, 2006 6:22 PM

As usual, I feel obliged to start with the observation that every modeler has every right in the world to decide for himself/herself whether a particular kit is up to his/her standards.  It is, of course, possible to turn anything, up to and including a beef bone, into an accurate model of a ship.  Perhaps the relevant question in a case like this would be:  does the kit constitute a sufficiently accurate basis on which to build a scale model, with the application of significantly less time, effort, and skill than would be necessary to build such a model from scratch?  In my personal opinion, the answer in this particular case is - no.

The people responsible for designing the kit simply didn't know what they were doing.  They were tremendously talented artisans; the "carved" detail on that kit is on just about the same level as the best of the old English "Board Room" models.  (That's about the highest compliment I can pay.)  But they didn't understand how ships work.  That's demonstrated by such things as the absence of any connection between the masts and the yards, the enormous hole in the knee of the head, the points on the ends of the belaying pins, and the spar dimensions.  (The topmasts are too long to be struck.)  There does seem to be some room for doubt about the oft-criticized configuration of the quarter galleries, but I'm among those who think Heller botched them up.  (I'm almost - albeit not absolutely - convinced they ought to have open balconies, and that the Heller designers simply misinterpreted a broadside photo.)  The deck furniture is so meager that it can't possibly represent the real thing.  The deck planks are ludicrously wide.  And, most seriously of all, the underwater hull is out of proportion to the rest of the model.  I question whether a full-size ship of those proportions would float.  The kit apparently was based on a nineteenth-century model in the Musee de la Marine, of Paris; even cursory examination of a photo of that model shows that its hull is far deeper than that of the kit.

Then there are the various silly contraptions involved in the rigging.  Some of the problems there aren't Heller's fault; it isn't possible (for anybody but the geniuses at Imai) to make styrene block or deadeye in a rigid mold with a groove around it and a hole through it.  But the blocks and deadeyes in that kit are garbage - and so are the ridiculous gadgets for rigging the shrouds and ratlines.

To me, that's just too long a list of inadequacies - and there are too many better kits around.  This one is on a slightly - but only slightly - higher level of historical accuracy than the typical HECEPOB (Hideously Expensive Continental European Plank On Bulkhead) kit from the likes of Mamoli, Corel, Artesania Latina, etc.  (One of them, as a matter of fact, makes a Soleil Royal that appears to have been pirated from the Heller kit.)  Those...things...are designed (I guess) to make pretty room decorations.  They aren't scale models.

I built the Heller kit when it was relatively new, about thirty years ago.  I lavished a great deal of time on it, over a period of a couple of years.  As soon as I got it home from the hobby shop I started noticing some odd features, which, as I now realize, should have tipped me off to the fact that I'd made an expensive mistake.  A quick look at the instruction book established that (a) the people responsible for it didn't understand rigging, and (b) the person who "translated" the French text into English neither understood French nor had attempted to build the model.  I spotted some of the kit's other inadequacies while I was working on it.  The blocks, deadeyes, and jigs went in the trash, the belaying pins got replaced, I made a set of parrels for the yards, and I rigged it according to Dr. Anderson's book.  I used silk thread, with the heavier lines spun up on a homemade "ropewalk," and gave it a set of furled sails made with my usual silkspan-tissue-stiffened-with-white-glue-and-paint trick. 

The more I worked on the kit, though, the more nagging doubts I had about it - and the more time I spent in the library looking up information about the subject, the more depressed and frustrated I got.  By the time I finished it, I'd figured out most of its problems - but by then it was too late to fix them.  (I doubt I'd be up to the task of reworking those quarter galleries to Heller's standard in any case.) 

The rest of the family thought the finished model was beautiful, of course, and I published an article about it in a British hobby magazine.  I bought a nice mahogany case kit for it from Model Shipways, and it lurked in a corner of the family living room till I finished grad school and moved out of the house.  Sometime thereafter, my parents loaned the model to one of the family doctors; the last I heard, he still had it.  Mom and Dad are both gone now and the old house has been sold; I have no idea whether the doctor's still around or not.  If he still has the model, he's welcome to it.  By the time I was finished with it, I was thoroughly embarrassed to have bought the kit in the first place.  I regard it as one of the least satisfactory experiences I've had in fifty years of ship modeling.

In a recent issue of FSM, a reviewer concluded his comments on a new 1/32-scale Fokker DR-1 with the suggestion that the best way to solve its problems was to buy another manufacturer's kit.  I'm afraid that has to be my recommendation to scale modelers for dealing with the Heller Soleil Royal:  spend your money on something else. 

If you're looking for a room decoration that generally resembles a French seventeenth-century warship from a distance, you'll probably find this kit more than satisfactory.  But if you're seriously interested in scale ship modeling - forget it.  Try the Revell Constitution, the Revell Cutty Sark, the Heller La Reale, or the Heller Victory.  Or, on smaller scales, the Airfix Wasa or H.M.S. Prince.  All those kits meet a reasonable definition of the term "scale model."  The Heller Soleil Royal doesn't.

 

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

  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: The green shires of England
Posted by GeorgeW on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 3:20 AM

I can’t help but agree with jtilley which is partly why I sold my model after it had lain in the Attic for some years.

I find myself at variance with the view that the decorative stern work is as good as Navy Board models, but it is a major feature of the kit and does provide for many hours of intricate paintwork.

In my opinion the addition of deck furniture and parrels are minor issues as are the points on belay pins which particularly when rigged are of little import.

 The topmasts do look somewhat odd given their extreme length and were I doing the kit today I think I would reduce them, a knock on effect is that the topmast shrouds are far too long and narrow. I seem to recall that the kit also provided for Back stay spreaders at the topmast, something totally inappropriate for a ship of this period.

 The underwater hull looked too shallow even to my relatively novice eye, more reminiscent of a river barge than a 17th century three decker.

 However, it is a pity that Jtilley’s critique has probably greatly reduced the satisfaction level for those who have already started this relatively expensive model or have it waiting in the wings.

 On a positive note the kit does provide ample scope to practice detail painting and provides an opportunity to develop rigging skills and knowledge, particularly if the Anderson book is used.

 The finished product is attractive if not altogether accurate, and at the scale is more user friendly for those whose eyesight is not perhaps as good as it was or fingers less nimble than they used to be.

Representations of 17th century vessels at this scale in plastic are limited -  to well, this one.

 If you have started it I say carry on, if you are not too hung up about accuracy it will look good on the dresser and impress your likely audience.

One additional bonus is that having a Spritsail Topmast the overall model length is far more conducive to a domestic setting than later ships having a jib and flying jib.

 

Build it, learn from it, and enjoy it.

  • Member since
    July 2006
Posted by Michael D. on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 8:34 AM

Well now that we've ripped this model to shreads, which by the way has made me more eager to start mine, this is what we have so far to start the healing proccess that might make it presentable for anyone willing to put forth the effort of course.

1-install parrels

2-rig according to Dr Anderson

3-shorten topmasts...how much?

4-plank visable decks to proper width

5-replace belaying pins,blocks,deadeyes etc.

6-correct deck furniture, not sure whats all involved here

7-correct spar dimensions, again not sure whats all involved here

8-set in a waterline diorama to hide the biggest problem..always wanted to do this myself.

may have missed a few things, but then again i know diddly squat.

I think most the corrections are realisticlly achievable...what do ya think?

 

  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: The green shires of England
Posted by GeorgeW on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 9:15 AM

An excellent suggestion Michael about doing the model as a waterline version, I think it would look good.

As far as topmast lengths are concerned Anderson covers this in his book, but essentially the lengths are taken by reference to the Mainmast length - something in the order of 0.63.

How this works out in relation to the kit provided mainmast I don't know as I didn't think to modify it all those years ago.

I don't think one should be too sniffy about this kit after all even the much vaunted Revell 'Constitution' has its deficiencies, inadequate Hammock cranes, and poorly modelled capstan etc;

I would do the Soleil Royal again taking into account the things you mention above, and where else are you going to find a 1:100 scale 17th century three decker in plastic!

  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 9:16 AM
Hello: Here it is the waterline-diorama of the Heller Soleil Royal:

http://modellversium.de/galerie/artikel.php?id=289

Reading all the criticism about the Heller kit: I for one would not hesitate to start building it. I mean the images in the link posted above look great to my eyes.  I would build it out of the box and be happy with the outcomme.

Regards,
Kater Felix



  • Member since
    January 2005
  • From: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Posted by bryan01 on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:31 AM

Take a look at this website:

http://www.romaniaksrestoration.com/soleil.html

This guy seems to know what he is talking about. Pictures are unfortunately not very large.

 

Bryan
  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 12:21 PM

The photos Katzennahrung and bryan01 posted demonstrate that a conscientious, serious modeler can make a decent model out of this kit.  Note that both of them changed the quarter galleries - and did a beautiful job of it.  The rigging in the photos Katzennahrung posted is especially spectacular; the modeler obviously junked the kit-supplied blocks and deadeyes, and used either scratch-built or aftermarket replacements.  (The latter would cost several hundred dollars - but there's no reason to buy all of them at once.)  I don't care much for the sails, but I guess that's largely personal.  Slicing off the hull at the waterline (or, in the case of the other model, floating it) makes a huge difference to the overall hull proportions.  I'm still not entirely comfortable with them; the ship still looks clumsily tall for her length, and I don't think the proportions match the Musee de la Marine model.  But it's certainly believable.

Neither of those modelers did much, if anything, about the deck furniture - that is, the ladders, the railings at the breaks of the decks, etc.  I agree with Chuckfan:  though contemporary evidence about such things is scanty, the lack of ornamentation on those parts in the kit just isn't believable. 

Dr. Anderson's book contains figures for typical spar proportions of the period.  The topmasts have to be short enough that, when slid down through the holes in the tops, they can be removed from the ship.

One Heller flub that seems to escape lots of people's attention concerns the knee of the head.  The incomplete Musee de la Marine model has no figurehead or other carvings in that area.  Heller did a nice job on the figurehead, but left a gaping hole in the knee of the head just aft of it.  That section surely would be adorned with a frieze of carving.  The carvings might have some small holes through them, but nothing like that yawning opening in the kit.  If a real ship were built like that, the bow would be in danger of collapsing.

I certainly agree with George's implication that there really ought to be a 1/100 seventeenth-century plastic warship kit out there.  As I understand it, Heller was contemplating an H.M.S. Prince and a Sovereign of the Seas at the time the company abandoned the sailing ship market.  By that time the nautically-challenged artisans either had learned what ships looked like or had been replaced by people who did.  Presumably those projected kits would have been to the standard of the 1/100 Victory, if not higher.  Drooool....

But there are lots of holes in the tiny range of large-scale plastic sailing ship kits.  Why no American clipper?  Why no whaler?  Why no American sailing warship of any sort in any scale, other than the Constitution?  Why no warship from the Napoleonic Wars, other than the Victory?  Why nothing from the great Scandinavian or Dutch traditions?  Etc., etc.

I don't feel like I have any right to pass judgment on anybody's hobby; anybody who wants to undertake this kit certainly has my blessing.  My complaint is with Heller.  Yes, every kit suffers from some sort of mistake; that's almost guaranteed by the limitations of the styrene molding process.  (George didn't mention the biggest, most difficult problem of the Revell Constitution:  the bulwarks are too thin.)  But there's a difference between a flawed scale model and an object that doesn't rise to the definition of the term.  In promoting this thing as a scale model of a real ship, Heller is (or perhaps we should say "was") deceiving the public.  The HECEPOB companies do the same thing.  I've spent a fair amount of time deriding their marketing practices; Heller is (or was) almost as bad.

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

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: Greenville,Michigan
Posted by millard on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 7:53 PM

Romaniak's model of the Soleil Royale I got to see in person. I believe in the late Eighty's or early ninty's at Manitowoc Wi. maritime museum. It was a beautiful model.I've seen some of his other stuff he's a very good modeler.The old Model Ship Builders magazine need a nice article on his Soleil.

   This kit may have some issues but is still a beautiful kit when done.Almost all kits have scale problems.Take the Revell 1/96 Cutty Sark . If you use the kits deadeyes to scale the are over nine ft tall a little out of wack.Like most models you will have to add parts and do a little scratch building to make them totally accurate.I've said this before if you had fun building it and your happy with the out come thats all that matters,and 97% of the people that see it won't know if there's inaccuracies.

Rod

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:38 PM

Well, it looks like quite a few people out there like this kit.  I certainly can't claim immunity from the hypnotic aura that seems to surround it; I did, after all, build it (though I wish I hadn't). 


If folks want to build this thing, it's certainly not for me to tell them they shouldn't.  One aspect of all this does puzzle me, though.  Throughout the rest of this forum, knowledgeable modelers are in the habit of trashing new and reissued kits mercilessly because they don't come up to some standard of accuracy.  If a manufacturer misses the distinction between the leading edge shapes of the wings on the P-51B and the P-51D, that manufacturer can expect to take a beating in the modeling press.  The same goes for armor, railroad, and even warship kits.  Just as an example, take a look at the reception Trumpeter's square-bridge Fletcher-class destroyer got in this forum.  The first post about it opened with the assertion that "words to accurately sum up just how bad it is would all be censored," and went on to describe it as "an almost complete waste of plastic."  Other members chimed in, using phrases like "pit-ee-full" and "the biggest waste of good styrene I have seen in a long time."  Nobody refuted any of those judgments.  And speaking of Fletcher-class destroyers - take a look at the abuses that have been heaped (justifiably) on the old Lindberg "Blue Devil" kit over the years.  Nobody says "well, most people won't know the difference," or "it may not be a hundred percent accurate, but it looks nice when it's done." 


The Heller Soleil Royal is at least as bad as either of those kits.  Yet people feel obliged to jump to its defense.  (This kit isn't the only example - and the folks in this Forum aren't the only ones who take that sort of position.  The HECEPOB companies apparently stay in business because so many modelers turn blind eyes to their ludicrous historical inaccuracies.) 


I don't imply any criticism of anybody (other than the manufacturers); we all have every right to our opinions.  But my question is - why do kits in every other segment of the hobby routinely get held to such high standards by comparison with sailing ship kits? 


I can offer several personal theories.  Maybe it's because, in the eyes of the uninitiated, even a miserable sailing ship model is better looking than a Fletcher or a P-51.  Maybe there are so few sailing ship kits on the market that we instinctively feel obliged to make the best of those we can find.  Or maybe this phase of modeling simply attracts a different sort of person than the others do.  I don't know, but there's little room for doubt about the phenomenon:  sailing ship modelers are willing to put up with more crap from the manufacturers than modelers in any other field.  The sailing ship modelers who do take exception to the sins of the HECEPOB world tend to condemn all kits, and insist that scratchbuilding is the only "legitimate" way to build a model.


In the grand scheme of things I guess none of this makes much difference, since the styrene sailing ship kit is, to all intents and purposes, extinct.  But I can't help wondering what sort of message we're sending to the manufacturers.

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

  • Member since
    April 2004
Posted by Chuck Fan on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 3:29 AM
Several points:

1.  When at first I looked at the hull, I had the same impression about the shallowness as several people who posted above.   However, later I found in one of my reference books a contempoary Danish draught of anther French 120 gunner that served at the same time as Soleil Royal.   This drawing was done in a fashion similar to British Admiralty draught, and was clearly meant to be accurate rather than stylish.   I'lll look up the title of the book when I get back to the states.    The proportion of Heller's hull is fairly close to those depicted in the drawing, the layout of the gun ports, the hances, the railing are all not far off of that drawing.    So I have to say Heller did not pull the hull design out of thin air. I will no longer dismiss it out of hand.   

2.   I think the impression that Huller hull is far too shallow may have been accenturated by the fact that, while the shape of the hull is based on a historical draught,  Heller scribed the water line about 1 cm too low.   If the water line scribed by Heller is used, the ship would be riding far higher in the water than the Royal Louis depicted in the draught.    The lowest wale in Heller's soleil is a good 2 scale feet clear of Heller's scribed water line.   The Danish draught show the lowest point of the lowest wale of Royal Louis to be completely submerged below the water line.    The sill of the lowest roll of gun ports on Heller's model is a good 7 scale feet above water line.    I have no direct evidence of how high the SR's gun ports should be when the ship is riding at her true water line, but I have the following line of indirect evidence to think 7 feet is far too high.     For example, it is known that 17th century three deckers, even big French ones, universally carried their lowest tier of gun ports very close to the waterline, and as a result these ports are unusable whenever the sea is anything but flat calm or the ship is heeling in a wind.    Throughout the 18th century, a continuous if subtle drive in warship design is to raise the height of the sill of the lowest roll of gun ports to facilitate their opening in rough seas.     HMS Victory is an extremely successful British 3 decker that fully profitted from a full 70 years of additional development after the Soleil Royal, and she was also almost 30% larger than the Soleil Royal by tonnage.   The Victory carried her lowest ports 4 feet 8 inches off of the water line.   I humbly submit Soleil Royal would have carried her ports no higher.   If you raise Heller SR's waterlline by 1 cm, the depth of the hull below waterline looks much more reasonable, and the height of the gun ports would also look more reasonable.

3.  Heller's beakhead is missing a piece.   The glaring opening in the middle of the beakhead, between the carved cheekknees, should be filled in with timber the same thickness as the rest of the beakhead.   If it is filled in, then I see no other major implausibilities in the beakhead.    There should probably be some kind of railing in the bow to keep people using the round house from being swept overboard, but that's a minor issue.   BTW, there should probably be a few more toilet facilities than the 2 round house depicted.  It's hard to imagine a crew of about 1000 making do with just 2 round houses.

4.  Each segment of the main, fore and mizzen masts are all too tall. The yard arms are too thick by far.  Their diameter should be 1/2 of what Heller depicted.   The TG and Royal masts are also far too think.   In reality they taper to just 2-3 inches in diamter near the top.   The mysterious tulip shaped bulb that Heller placed beneath the TG crosstrees is something I don't understand.   I can't find an analogue of it in any reference I've found.     The afore mentioned Danish draught formed the basis of a full sail-spar plan reconstruction that was done in a noted French tome covering a number of major French warships during the 17th century.    The Spar plan for the Royal Louis is reproduce in the same reference where the Danish draught itself is reproduced.   If interested, email me for photo copies of the sail-spar plans.   

5.  Not only would the deck to much more full of equipment and furiture, it should also be much more lavishly decorated with sculptures, reliefs, and gildings.   The back end of the f'c'stle of 17th century warshisp are usually close off, not open as depicted by Heller.

6.  The quarter balcanies should be open, not closed in.   Although it can not be excluded that the quarter balcanies can sometimes ship deadlights.    BTW, it is not clear where the officer's facilities would be if the balcany is open.   Close quarter gallaries usually serves as the officer's facilities on ships so equipped.  Anyone?

7.  The guns are rediculous.   The barrels are far too long and slander to have been the 48 pdr, 36 pdrs and 24 pdrs they should be.    The trunions are too far forward, making the guns sit unnaturally back on the carriages.  The carriages may also be quite wrong.   What is depicted seem to be early 17th century carriages, like those from the Wasa, where the cheek pieces rises off of the floor piece.    By late 17th century, naval gun carriages may have already adopted cheek and transom design without the floor piece.   In reality, the shape and size of bronze canons and iron canons of late 17th century were virtually indistinguishable.   By late 17th century, French Navy has long since abandoned the slander, elaborately decorated bronze guns of early part of the century.    They've settle on a standardized set of bronze and iron guns that would be indistinguishavle in proportion and size from Napoleonic naval guns of 100 years later.   Any decoration bronze naval guns would have would consist of subtle surface relief invisible at this scale.
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 3:49 AM
 jtilley wrote:

The Heller Soleil Royal is at least as bad as either of those kits.  Yet people feel obliged to jump to its defense.  (This kit isn't the only example - and the folks in this Forum aren't the only ones who take that sort of position.  The HECEPOB companies apparently stay in business because so many modelers turn blind eyes to their ludicrous historical inaccuracies.) 



Hello: I think it has more to do with the fact that there are a lot more airplane kits around where people can choose from. I mean what would you suggest if one is after the Soleil Royal in plastic modeling?

However, if I were the runner of the Heller business I would have had some experienced marine historians overlooking the kits and paying them for further suggestions to the kits, especially on the rigging.

At the moment Heller and Airfix are struggling to survive. It means it is unlikely now that better plastic sailing ship kits will appear on the market for a long time.

Regards,
Kater Felix
  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 3:53 AM
 jtilley wrote:

Or, on smaller scales, the Airfix Wasa or H.M.S. Prince.  All those kits meet a reasonable definition of the term "scale model."  The Heller Soleil Royal doesn't.


Hello: It is not for the first time that you  are mentioning the Airfix Wasa kit for its good accuracy. Do you also mean the rigging lines, as it comes with the manual, are good? I have seen the assembled kit depicted in a German magazine and will have to say that it seems rigging lines are as simple as we know it from other kits.

Regards,
Kater Felix

  • Member since
    August 2006
  • From: Cygnus X-1
Posted by ogrejohn on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 4:05 AM

I understand jtilleys concern over accuracy (or lack thereof) for sailing ship models. I think jtilley hit it on the head as far as the phrase a miserable sailing ship model being better looking than a Fletcher or a P-51. I don't think better looking is apt but maybe overall impression of the model given the size and seemingly miles of rigging on ships. Maybe another reason some of the kit maufacturerers get by with making inaccurate sailing ship models is there are not as many sailing ship modelers as there are P-51 modelers. I think the amount of information available also plays a part too. If you walk into the hobby shop, how many books are you going to find on P-51's vs the Soleil Royal? The question is, how can we make the sailing ship manufacturers change their way of doing business?

 

 

  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: The green shires of England
Posted by GeorgeW on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 7:51 AM

 Ship modelling has a very long history and ship models are perhaps perceived in a slightly different manner to other forms of modelling. They traditionally have been displayed for decorative purposes, and a beautiful ship model still has perhaps a more favoured place on a sideboard than say a model of a B17 no matter how accurately or expertly modelled. I generalize to an extent you understand.

  The advent of the styrene model allowed those without the time, ability, or desire to scratch build, the opportunity to produce a beautiful model in a reasonable time scale, and whose deficiencies are only likely to be apparent to serious students of the subject.

 Of course over the years there has been a shift in the market base for these kits and modellers have with a growing expertise bashed them about, researched the history, and thereby identified the deficiencies.

 Would any of the manufacturers at the time of first release have imagined the current debates going on about their products, or the seriousness a relatively small number of adult ship modellers would view a plastic model, I don’t think so. I doubt that any of these kits were ever aimed initially at for want of a better word ‘serious’ ship modellers.

 Because of the complexity of period ship modelling it is always likely to be a minority activity, but the manufacturers are to be thanked for at least providing the means for a greater number to get into the hobby, and give an impetus to the desire to find out more and thereby progress.

 I try to get my models as accurate as possible and enjoy researching the correct way to rig this or that but I build for my satisfaction and have no illusions of producing the definitive model of a particular ship.

 Things are probably far more clear cut with aircraft which are from a more recent period, are represented in models to a far greater extent, and therefore provide modellers with more choice. The same applies to ‘modern ships’ which are also well represented.

Being somewhat simpler in form the deficiencies in aircraft models are more likely to be spotted particularly with the wealth of evidence about them both pictorially and in museums etc. Sailing ships on the other hand tended to have long careers with many changes taking place, which give rise to  the endless discussions on this forum.

  I am of course somewhat biased but I believe it is still sailing ships that represent the pinnacle of modelling in terms of research needed, time expended, and visual impact. To me a sailing ship model is more than just the sum of its parts, it’s the whole that produces that pleasing effect hard to match in other modelling areas.

  Ship modellers do seem to have a different approach in attitude and purpose and it is perhaps not so much that followers of the genre are willing to put up with so much ‘crap’ as JohnTilley phrases it, but rather what other choice do they have if they don’t want to pursue the scratch build approach.

 Is it better to have no kit at all than one that at least for those interested, provides an opportunity for scratch build enhancements? – ‘you pays your money and takes your choice’

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 8:04 AM
In response to Katzennahrung's query regarding the smaller Airfix kits - unless the instructions have been changed recently (which I doubt), the rigging instructions are indeed highly simplified.  I also have big reservations about another aspect of Airfix sailing warship kits:  the fact that the guns below the weather decks are represented by "dummy" barrels that plug into holes in the middle of recessed squares representing the gunports.  Again, this is the sort of thing that modelers in other fields ceased to tolerate decades ago.  (Remember the days when airplane kits didn't have wheel wells?)  But I continue to contend that either of those small Airfix kits, the Prince or the Wasa, would be a more sound basis for a serious scale model than the Heller Soleil Royal - or most of the other Heller kits. 

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

  • Member since
    February 2006
Posted by Grymm on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 8:50 AM

Let me jump in here since I'm knee deep in the Soleil Royale as I write this.  I also may be a small insignificant reason for this thread.

JTilley, I respect you to a level I've never respected anyone before.  Let me say first that I TOTALLY and COMPLETELY agree with you on all of your points.  Yes, the yards/masts are out of proportion and size.  Yes, the hull is off.  Yes, the stern galleries were not enclosed.  Even Heller knew the latter, since the cover art on the box itself clearly shows balconies all the way around the stern castle.  I will even say, after a discussion with somebody else, that there is not enough ornate decoration on the ship.  What was the quote "every flat area on the deck would have had some kind of carving on it."  Seeing as how flambouyant the French were at that time, I would agree with the point.  And if my memory serves me, the deck should be curved for a ship of that period.

There are a lot of "innaccuracies" with this kit.

But it is still a magnificent kit in it's own right.  Let me explain, at least from my standpoint, and maybe all the people who view this kit with disdain will see my perspective.  Not not totally agree with it, but just understand it a little better.

I got back into modelling, and ship modelling, because of a little game called Pirates.  Saw it one day in Toys R Us while christmas shopping.  It caught both my and my boy's eye.  Eventually we bought a pack.  Simple little styrene ships, easy rules, and a blast to play.  Shortly after that we watched Master and Commander.  For Christmas, my wife got me and Jacob the little Revell model of the Constitution.  I was hooked.  I spent 3 months on that kit and then had to have more.  While perusing the web, I saw the Soleil Royale.  Now, I was not aware of the innaccuracies of the kit at the time.  But the sheer beauty caught my eye and I had to have it.  And I'm not sorry for it.  Now, I have the Cutty Sark sitting proudly in my son's room, the Royal on my table right now, and the La Reale, 1/96 Constitution and the ever imposing Heller Victory, all waiting in the wings.  But, because of the Royale, I'm modelling again.

The negatives have been listed.  Now, let's look at the positives of the kit. 

-Beautiful.  This is a no brainer.  It is an artwork to the point that my wife wants it in the living room.

-It is a painter's dream.  This is what I like.  I'm like an addict with an unending supply of crack.  The level of detail is something that I have simply never seen before.

-It brings people into the craft.  Face it.  Modelling is not what it once was.  Companies have let molds grow old.  There simply is nothing really new out there.  When a former modeller or aspiring modeller comes across the Royale, it can make them WANT to get back into the game.

-a Family affair and teaching tool.  My children are running upstairs every day to see what I've done.  They want to know more.  Now, Jacob is getting to go on a school trip to DC and the surrounding area.  He can't wait to get to all the maritime exhibits in the Smithsonian.  Because of the sheer ornateness of the kit, my boys are wanting to learn. **this is the most significant of all reasons**

-Great exercize.  The difficulty of this kit is high.  The rigging is a nightmare.  You are compelled to research.  This is great exercise for any kit you build.

I could go on and on.  My painting skills are improving because of this kit.  My rigging skills are improving because of this kit.  You could say I could get all this from any kit.  But because I'm not so adept at the "true" way things were, or the "historical accuracy", my unconscious mind is using the simple and elegant beauty of this kit as a launch pad to keep me motivated for the build, and for future builds.  Despite all of it's shortcomings, I want to build this kit more than any other I have...though I will admit a bit of excitement at the thought of working on the La Reale...

Now, the logical question is why the heck did Heller let this kit hit the market in the first place?  Wouldn't they have known about all the problems?  Sure they would have.  I don't think they had a choice.  The decision was obviously a business one.  Because it all comes down to money.  Somewhere down the line, Heller fell behind in overseeing their designers.  By the time they did look at what they had, and saw all the errors and mistakes....and totally screwed up instructions, it was too late.  There was probably just not enough money left for that phase of the project to redo everything, so they made the decision to go with it.  And judging by the fact that it sold well enough in it's time, that decision was a wise one, though ultimately their fate has still been sealed.

To anyone out there I say, get this kit.  You won't be sorry.  For those like me, middle of the road modellers, you will love this build straight from the box.  It will test your skills and reward your patience.  And for those who crave accuracy, you will want this kit even more.  You'll revel in the challenge of fixing the shortcomings.  You will be proud of your work.  Scratchbuilding is in your blood and this ship will scream at you and challenge you.  And reward you in the end.  To me, virtually ever model kit in existence is worthy of building.  It's just the sheer fun that I want.  That's all.

Just build and have fun.  This kit is worth every dime.  In my house, like I've said before, I'm the only one who even remotely cares that the Royale is innaccurate.  And even for me, it's not really an issue.  I'm just tickled to death that I've gotten as far as I have on it without totally screwing it up.  Yes, I will be getting the book for help with rigging...but I'm still at least 3 months away from even pulling the rigging line out of the box...

 

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: New York City
Posted by Goshawk on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 8:59 AM

This discussion over the accuracy of sailing ship kits has become very fascinating to me. It bears out a theory I have about modelers in general.

Simply put, we tend to be a lazy bunch, myself included. We want our models to be accurate, but we aren't always willing to do the research involved to get them there. If the information is readily available in a book we can buy at a hobby shop (cheap) or better yet on the internet for free, great. If it means going to a library, or traveling to a museum, only a few die hard enthusiasts will put forth the effort.

Where aircraft, armor and modern ships are concerned, the information is abundantly available. Even if you have never seen a P-51 or Fletcher class destroyer in person, you can find oceans of photos, walk arounds and drawings on the subject, allowing even the laziest of modelers to become an overnight expert. However, when you are dealing with something long extinct like a 17th century warship where no photos, accurate drawings or even actual examples survive, then trying to define what is authentic and accurate becomes work, hard work. I don't think anyone hear would disagree with me if I said there are no "overnight" sailing ship experts out there. If you want to understand the workings, subtle design differences, and histories of sailing ships, you are looking at a major investment of time doing so.

And just to drive home my point about the modeling community’s tendency towards laziness, take a look at aircraft modelers. This is probably the most popular modeling category. In recent years, some of the most amazing kits have been churned out by Tamiya, Revell, Hasegawa, etc. The attention to detail and engineering of kit parts to hide seems have reached never before dreamed of levels. The aftermarket supplies us with resin and photo etched details that allow a particular aircraft to be detailed to within microscopic levels. And all this wonder is completely undermined by laziness in finishing the model with these God awful, never documented, highly stylish post shaded finishes. Why? Because the modeler is too lazy to research how the aircraft ACTUALLY looked, it is far easier to just apply a general finish that is considered by some to be "pleasing to the eye". In much the same way someone would build a historically inaccurate sailing ship model simply because it "looks nice". To correct the inaccuracies would require a lot of research and scratch building.

Back when aircraft models were still as crude as ship models are today, as information became available, modelers would put forth great effort to correct their shortcomings. Little by little, as it became well known through out the modeling community that a particular kit was inaccurate, astute kit companies would develop new, more accurate kits of the same subject to boost sales. Each new release would out do the previous one. We saw this happening throughout the 1990s, when companies like Revell/Monogram and Tamiya were actually releasing the same subject in the same scale in an attempt to out do the other (the 1/48 F-84 comes to mind).

I guess if there was enough information readily available about the Soleil Royal out there that would make it easy for the average modeler to spot the inaccuracies of the Heller kit, more folks would feel as jtilley does, that the kit is laughable at best. But to the untrained eye, it is just a pretty ship that looks like what it claims to be, a 17th century warship. The way a Spitfire would resemble a 109 to someone who had never seen either, just a single engined propeller driven fighter.

My two cents, anyway.

Tory

 

  • Member since
    November 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 9:51 AM
 jtilley wrote:
In response to Katzennahrung's query regarding the smaller Airfix kits - unless the instructions have been changed recently (which I doubt), the rigging instructions are indeed highly simplified.  I also have big reservations about another aspect of Airfix sailing warship kits:  the fact that the guns below the weather decks are represented by "dummy" barrels that plug into holes in the middle of recessed squares representing the gunports.  Again, this is the sort of thing that modelers in other fields ceased to tolerate decades ago.  (Remember the days when airplane kits didn't have wheel wells?)  But I continue to contend that either of those small Airfix kits, the Prince or the Wasa, would be a more sound basis for a serious scale model than the Heller Soleil Royal - or most of the other Heller kits. 


I think things will not change in the future because Heller is broken (hopefully they will start over again with some better funding plans). My local dealer was not able to order the Heller Le Gladiatuer (cost tag of around $ 50,-) anymore.

Now I will try to get some Heller kits from ebay.

It is a pity that we do not have a source ( e.g. an online ship modeling magazine dedicated solely to plastic sailing ships) were one can retrieve some more deeper  advices on how to improve ones plastic kit. I often had wished to find some (after market) plans to a particular plastic sailing ship kit (lets say the Wasa from Airfix) in order to improve the rigging lines.  I mean a step-by-step guide for dummies tailored to one specific kit.

For me there comes an additional problem: I do not like some ships. For example I was never attracted by the Cutty Sark. I think a lot of people do not choose one particular kit due to its accuracy (as jtilley often mentioned some Cutty Sark kits are marvelous); they buy a sailing ship kit because they like the ship as such.


Regards,
Kater Felix


  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: vernon hills illinois
Posted by sumpter250 on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 12:46 PM

I invite you all to contribute to this thread and share your knowledge, stories and experiences thus creating the Ultimate Soleil Royal Building Guide. But please be fair. Don’t just say this is wrong or that could have been better. Offer solutions as well.

Enter (from stage left) the old stick in the mud. As for the accuracy of any kit I have three words the Strombecker b-29 . So, the aircraft, military, ship, train, car, and even sci-fi model hobbies have come a long way. Why? consumer participation. Face it!, sailing ship modelers make up a very small percentage of modelbuilders. That said, Bryan had a great idea here. Take a (oh, all right) marginally representative kit, and document the ways to make it a little better. Will an accurate kit of Soleil Royal ever be released in plastic? I certainly won't be holding my breath. Can the heller kit be modified to come closer to "accurate"? If there's one chance in infinity, it's possible. To those who know this kit is a piece of trash, and have stated what's wrong with it, look to the last four words of the quote above. Offer up the fixes necessary to bring this model closer to accurate. Those who wish to build a more accurate model of Soliel royal could use the information, those who would use the kit as a beginning, can build it "out-of-the-box.

Lead me not into temptation ..................I can find it myself

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 10:24 PM

As a demonstration of just how bizarre the behavior of sailing ship kit manufacturers can be, take a look at this:   http://www.modelexpoonline.com/cgi-bin/sgin0101.exe?FNM=00&T1=MA796&UID=2006092023115001&UREQA=1&TRAN85=N&GENP=

Well, at least they did something about the quarter galleries. But note the gaping hole in the knee of the head, just aft of and below the figurehead.  That's not the sort of mistake two designers would be apt to make independently. 

It's pretty clear that Mantua's "research" for this kit consisted of buying a Heller one. 

Note also the price:  $899.99.  Welcome to the wonderful world of the HECEPOBs.

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

  • Member since
    April 2004
Posted by Chuck Fan on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 10:32 PM
 jtilley wrote:

As a demonstration of just how bizarre the behavior of sailing ship kit manufacturers can be, take a look at this:   http://www.modelexpoonline.com/cgi-bin/sgin0101.exe

Note the gaping hole in the knee of the head, just aft of and below the figurehead.  That's not the sort of mistake two designers would be apt to make independently.

It's pretty clear that Mantua's "research" for this kit consisted of buying a Heller kit.  Well, at least they did something about the quarter galleries.

Note also the price:  $799.00.  Welcome to the wonderful world of the HECEPOBs.




The gaping hole in the beakhead was not invented by Heller.   It is present in the large scale Paris Maritime musuem model  from which  almost all  20th century  reconstructions of the S/R seem to have taken their cue.

Mantua  probably  copied  the  Paris Museum speciment that same way  Heller did.

 
  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 10:43 PM

Maybe.  My logic, though, is that anybody with any sense could figure out that the gap in the Musee de la Marine model's bow is due to the fact that the figurehead, and its associated carvings, were never installed.  Surely it's obvious that something's missing - and that just slapping a figurehead onto the knee of the head doesn't solve the problem.

HECEPOB companies have pirated from plastic kit companies more than once.  The Mamoli "H.M.S. Beagle," for instance, is quite clearly a copy of the Revell one.  (There's just no way two independent brains could conceive of making a Beagle out of a modified Bounty.

Sumpter - sure, it's possible to turn the Heller kit into a scale model.  (The two whose photos have been posted in this thread certainly come closer than the one I built yea those many years ago.)  It's also possible to turn a Lionel 0-27 steam locomotive into a scale model.  Personally, though, that's not how I want to spend the limited time allotted me on the Orb.  I'd rather spend that time working from decent kits, or working from scratch - or griping about all the wonderful potential ship model subjects the plastic kit manufacturers are never going to issue.

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

  • Member since
    February 2006
  • From: The green shires of England
Posted by GeorgeW on Thursday, September 21, 2006 6:00 AM

 Chuck Fan wrote:
Several points:
7.  The guns are rediculous.   The barrels are far too long and slander to have been the 48 pdr, 36 pdrs and 24 pdrs they should be.    The trunions are too far forward, making the guns sit unnaturally back on the carriages.  The carriages may also be quite wrong.   What is depicted seem to be early 17th century carriages, like those from the Wasa, where the cheek pieces rises off of the floor piece.    By late 17th century, naval gun carriages may have already adopted cheek and transom design without the floor piece.   In reality, the shape and size of bronze canons and iron canons of late 17th century were virtually indistinguishable.   By late 17th century, French Navy has long since abandoned the slander, elaborately decorated bronze guns of early part of the century.    They've settle on a standardized set of bronze and iron guns that would be indistinguishavle in proportion and size from Napoleonic naval guns of 100 years later.   Any decoration bronze naval guns would have would consist of subtle surface relief invisible at this scale.

I am posting this following a conversation with Bryan about the kit cannon.

 I have had a look thro' my records on cannon of the mid – late 17th century, and I think that Chuck Fan is correct in his observations.

 But ordnance is another minefield with variations in names, calibres, and respective lengths. Cannon particularly brass ones tended to have a long career and to confuse matters  there could be a mixture of periods, and types, including captured ones, present on a ship at any particular time.

 I have an illustration of a  bronze French 18 pounder  c1665-69 which has a length of 9' 7'' and was recovered from the wreck of the ‘Association’ which went down in 1707.

 The cannon was thought to have been captured from the French at the Battle of Vigo in 1702. The proportions of this cannon are similar to those of a much later period.

 It is a puzzle why the proportions of the Soleil cannons are so different to the Heller Victory model supposedly of the same scale. As chuck Fan says over the period the proportions were not that much different.

 I have found three cannon barrels left over from my Soleil build and they measure 30mm, 33mm and 35mm respectively (muzzle to cascabel) which gives a scale length of  9.8' 10.8' (which is within the bounds of credibility) and 11.5' (which is probably borderline.) Even so the taper of the barrels does seem to be excessive.

 All the cannon have dolphins (lifting rings) which would suggest that they are Brass/ bronze pieces, which again would be correct for the period, but whether the entire ordnance of the ship was brass or bronze is I think open to debate.

 The trunnions do indeed look as if they are set too far forward of the dolphins, and they are outside of the second reinforcing ring. They are however tapered in shape which again is correct for the period (whether this is by Heller accident or design I don’t know)

 The carriages are of  truck and bed construction which is I think acceptable for the period, the change to truck and axle coming in around 1720.

The trucks on the left over carriages I have are all the same size,whereas the forward trucks should I think be somewhat larger than the rear ones.

 

All this just serves to present the Soleil builder with further distractions. Replacement of the ordnance would be a major exercise.

 

  • Member since
    February 2006
Posted by Grymm on Friday, September 22, 2006 8:34 AM

Last night I completed (I'll take photos tonight) all of the decks, with guns installed.  I just have some touch up work and some other little things to take care of.  So, at the end of the evening, I called up the two people who will make up the bulk of criticizm of my work...my wife and step-son Jacob.  My wife looked at it (she's not one for warships, but loves sailing vessels) and complimented all the gold work.  She loves how decorative it is, which is one of the primary reasons that she may allow me to display it on the mantle downstairs.  Then Jacob, who is always wanting to see my work, looked all around the model, peeking in the various openings, straining to look down the lines of guns, all the while asking "what's this for?", "When are you putting the masts on?", and the one comment that told me, me that is, that it ultimately doesn't matter for my home that a model has errors, or is not completely accurate.  It doesn't matter if it's painted like it's supposed to be, or if it's painted how it "might have been".  No, none of that matter.  Jacob merely looked me in the eye with a grin on his face and said "That's cool!".

That was all I needed.

I'm not going to take any one side.  There is a need for historical accuracy when it comes to modelling actual historical ships, or anything historical for that matter.  There is a need because we need to remember our history, where we come from, and how we got there.  Accurate models are needed to show us, to give us true representation.  But, if you build a model that is not accurate, but is still extremely beautiful, like the Royal is most definitely, build it with pride.  As long as you know it's not completely accurate and you don't present it as such, there is no reason you can't display it and be proud of it. 

It's not necessarily the end result of a model that is the thrill.  For many modellers, such as myself, it is the thrill of the build itself.  The thrill and focus, the relaxation of the brush strokes, the sound of the sandpaper or the dremel.  For me, just being able to look at my creation and say "I did that."  is enough for me.  And the Soleil Royale, though flawed, is definitely not trash.  It is beautiful and I will build it and be thrilled about it.  The paint job won't be right in some eyes, the stern won't be right in some eyes, the rigging (especially since I did it) will definitely not be right in anyone's eyes.  But it is my work, and I'm happy.

Like I said, I'll take a few pics tonight, and fight with this forum's programming to get them up.  Not the best build in the world, but I'm happy.  Just don't use the pics as a launchpad for more debate about the historical accuracy of the ship.  I think we've had enough of that.

And to keep this thread on track, for those with the skill and resources, it is not too difficult to cutout the balconies that are supposed to exist on the sterncastle.  There are several pics on the web.  Making that modification goes a long way towards improving the appearance of that area of the ship.  I will not be doing it myself since I don't want to chance ruining the detailing on the pieces, but I'm sure many of you out there possess the skill, and styrene sheet, necessary to accomplish the task.  I've seen it done keeping the detailing and must moving it in to the hull, and without the detailing, showing the hull itself instead.  I like the former myself, since it keeps the wonderfull detailing that looks exquisite in gold.

There's a good question.  Has anyone ever attempted to paint the stern castle decorations in natural colours, like flesh tones on the statuary, greenery for the wreaths, and whatnot?  I've heard argument that it was actually painted that way.  It would look fantastic, but it would be a heck of a daunting task to accomplish.

  • Member since
    July 2006
Posted by Michael D. on Friday, September 22, 2006 12:10 PM

Phil i can relate to everything you said. I started gearing up for my build today by ordering Dr Andersons book, dremel, paints etc, and more info on those pics you speak of would be great..i'm assuming there different than the ones already posted eariler in the thread. I'll be keeping an eye out!

 

Michael.

  • Member since
    April 2004
Posted by Chuck Fan on Saturday, September 23, 2006 12:04 AM
 Grymm wrote:

 

There's a good question.  Has anyone ever attempted to paint the stern castle decorations in natural colours, like flesh tones on the statuary, greenery for the wreaths, and whatnot?  I've heard argument that it was actually painted that way.  It would look fantastic, but it would be a heck of a daunting task to accomplish.

 

Yes, I have.   Natural colors might look better if it is allowed to stand out against an entire hull painted blue.   Historical evidece does suggest S/R was painted mostly blue above waterline.      But if much of the hull is in natural wood color, then I think the decoration definitely looked better gilded.   

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Saturday, September 23, 2006 10:10 AM

This subject has come up recently in the field of nautical archaeology.  For many years it's been assumed that the seventeenth-century Swedish warship Wasa, now preserved in her own museum in Stockholm, was largely painted bright blue with gold-leafed carved ornamentation.  (The carvings on the Wasa are spectacular - quite comparable to those of the Soleil Royal.)  Recently, though, the researchers have done a study of the surviving paint samples.  They now believe her hull was coated with tar (i.e., very dark brown) from the keel to the uppermost wale (with no indication of the waterline), and a dark, rich red above that.  The dozens of carved figures appear to have been painted in natural colors, with gold leaf only on such things as sword handles, coats of arms, etc. 

I think most people would agree that the old concept of the Wasa's color scheme was better looking, but the evidence seems to be pretty clear.  (I do hope nobody who's built the excellent Airfix kit and painted it blue and gold now feels obligated to fall on his sword.)  I would, however, be hesitant to make the leap from the Wasa to any other ship.  Gold leaf does seem to have been applied pretty liberally to English and French ships in the seventeenth century - though some scholars think that some, at least of the ornamentation that was gilded on the English "Board Room" models was painted yellow in real life.

 

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

  • Member since
    January 2005
  • From: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Posted by bryan01 on Saturday, September 23, 2006 12:19 PM

 Grymm wrote:

There's a good question.  Has anyone ever attempted to paint the stern castle decorations in natural colours, like flesh tones on the statuary, greenery for the wreaths, and whatnot?  I've heard argument that it was actually painted that way.  It would look fantastic, but it would be a heck of a daunting task to accomplish.

It might have looked like this:

Painting by French artist P. Hippolyte Boussac (1846-1942).

If only photography had been invented (much) earlier....

 

Bryan
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