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USS Alaska

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"MSW crew-mate David J. Salvin (djandj) shares a challenging build of the USS Alaska, in this "Build Story" Feature!"

The Kit...

Whether the new 1/700 scale USS Alaska from Midship Models is a "kit" or merely a $120.00 invitation to scratch build is a question I will leave up to the audience. For my part, I will point out the problems and let the reader decide.

The significant problems with the kit are generally as follows:

Several major parts of the kit are simply missing.
a. The searchlight catwalk on the funnel
b. The entire lower half of the main radar array and main mast.

In the case of the large catwalk and searchlight platform on the funnel it was never actually made by the manufacturer. Calls and e-mails to the company have as of yet gone unanswered, and I had to scratch build the entire assembly. (No easy feat for such a part) The other part(s) missing is the entire lower half of the main radar array and main mast.(I also think these parts were simply never produced by Midship Models)

Most the PE parts are not enumerated in the instructions, and there are no numbers on the PE fret itself. Instruction as to where to place most PE parts is absent.

Instructions are at best useless and at worst misleading. They mislabel most of the sub-assemblies (harmless but embarrassing for the company - if they cared) , and fail to give any meaningful instruction as to where anything smaller than the secondary armament is placed. I later learned that Midship Models worked a little on the instructions for the USS Guam, so if you want to do this class of ship, the Guam is a bit better.

The main conning tower is incorrect for the ship. (and cannot easily be fixed)

The gun tubs are off scale and donít fit properly on the deck in places

The platforms for the front 5"platforms are round and need to be cut to fit the ship.

The rear 40MM gun tub deck doesnít fit on the ship w/o modification

The resin casting throughout the kit is thick and clumsy and requires an inordinate amount of sanding and finishing to get it to look anywhere near decent.

The PE supplied is way too thick. The railing looks like barn doors, and the catapult parts and railing are too thick to bend smoothly or cleanly. (No pre-cut grooves to use as bending guides.) They had to be completely replaced with Gold metal models US battleship after market PE.

The PE that is use-able is so closely packed on the fret that even a brand new #11 x-acto blade cannot cut the pieces off without damaging or bending the adjacent part and difficult to visualize even with three power opti-viewers.

The aircraft are that 1980's soft white metal and are so clumsily done as to be not worth fixing. (No decals provided for them anyway.)

The MK 38 gun directors are also white metal, are the wrong shape and have to be cut down. (Again, not easy with those metal parts)

No hatches, doors or any other details on the superstructure.

No hull details

The front of the superstructure and bridge are too short to accommodate the front 5" gun turret and 40MM gun tub without modification.

The main armament gun barrels donít fit well into the sockets provided, and their elevation cannot easily be changed.

The Build
Iíve always wanted to challenge myself with a really difficult camouflage job on a small ship like this. The modified MS 32 on the Alaska which she wore in 1944 gave just such a challenge. Here, each of the angles of each part of the ship had a different color to consider. The camo went up the sides of the ship and is different on the front, sides and top.

  This would have been much more difficult if not for:
Kenny Loup and his Gator Masks. (www.gatorsmask.com)

  Kenny provided perfectly cut pieces of all camo sections both from the sides and the top in scale and ready to use to mask the ship for painting. They were invaluable. Please excuse the product placement, but this camo job would have been a real chore if not for these masks.

  In order to airbrush all of the camo, I started with a base of 5-L light gray. I painted the camo up the sides of the ship and on the pieces of the superstructure parts before assembly. It took multiple passes for each color as the front, sides and top of each piece had to be considered, masked and painted separately. Once I had the camo on the sides, I could mask off all the vertical parts and paint the horizontal parts 20-B deck blue. Then I could use the Gator Mask and paint the 5-0 ocean gray parts called for in the camo scheme.

  As indicated above, most of the PE parts were too thick to be of much use and were replaced using Gold Metal Models US Battleships PE set. I replaced the main armament barrels with Admiralty Modelworks brass turned 12" barrels.

  They fit well enough into the blast bags provided (as Admiralty provides only the barrels, not blast bags), but as I said, Midship only provides a shallow divot within which place the blast bag onto the sloped front of the turret so elevation cannot be easily changed and the fit is generally rather poor.

  I had to scratch build the funnel catwalks as well as the entire lower part of the main radar array and mast, and had to try to fit it to the superstructure which doesnít accurately reflect the ship. (Didnít feel like trying to rebuild the entire conning tower)

  I used aftermarket brass watertight doors to add some measure of detail down the sides of the superstructure as the kit is dead flat down all sides. As this ship only existed for 4 years or so before being scraped, there are few, if any, pictures of her (I think a have them all now - about 8-10 or so) and none of them give a full picture of the details on all levels of the superstructure.

  I replaced all of the twin 5" AA gun turrets with Lion Roar after market pieces. They are very detailed and come with turned brass barrels. The baskets on the rear of each turret are provided by Midship. However, I had to lengthen the front of the superstructure assembly to accommodate the front 5" gun turret and even still didnít have enough room to put the floater baskets on the back.

  I replaced all of the quad 40MM AA guns with Lion Roar sets. They are very detailed, but are hard to get straight and I think they are out of scale.

  I replaced all of the 20MM AAís with aftermarket Lion Roar parts as they were more accurate and easier to work with than those provided by Midship.

  No anchor chain is provided with the ship. I added 40 link per inch HO railroad chain.

  The ship is screwed down to a solid oak platform and the ocean is done with Liquitex acrylic gel over a clear plexiglass base painted from the bottom. After spending all that time on the camo on the sides of the ship, I wanted to chance of getting Liquitex on the sides of the ship, so I wrapped the painted hull in saran wrap before screwing it down and applying the Liquitex. By making interrupted slices on the underside of the ship in the saran wrap, I was able to tear away the saran wrap once I mounted the ship and finished with the Liquitex. (Though I now know it is easier to remove the saran wrap before the Liquitex dries).

  All-in-all, the kit is a absolute mess, and you really have to want to build this ship, and have to strive to overcome its myriad of shortcomings. As usual, please feel free to e-mail for further information or questions.
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About the Author

About David J. Salvin (djandj)

I began building models at the age of 8. Stopped for college and law school and came back to the hobby after an 18 year intermission. Having built most everything from space ships to full-rigged sailing ships, I have returned to my first love - 1/700 military shipping. Modeling is just one of m...


Very nice job, love the back-drop
APR 28, 2010 - 10:19 AM
Nice job on the Alaska!!
APR 28, 2010 - 02:32 PM
Very nice job on an uber-challenging build. Thank you for taking the time to point out all the errors and omissions. The detailing you did at that scale is amazing; all your fixes really make the model stand out. Finally, the pics are great, as is the background. Bravo Zulu indeed, thanks for sharing!
MAY 04, 2010 - 01:43 AM