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Modeling & Historical Notes: Model Finishing Hero Image

Model Finishing

By Various Authors

Presented here is a series of articles on the subject of assembling and painting Superior 1:1200 (and also 1:2400) ship model kits. They are written by experienced, expert modelers and should prove very helpful in your modeling efforts. Excellent additional information can be found in the book, The Painters Guide to World War II Naval Camouflage, available from Alnavco. This includes assembly material as well as painting schemes.

The Alnavco Guarantee

Should you damage any part when assembling a Superior model, just get in touch with Alnavco and it will be replaced free of charge. Should you have a slip of a drill or whatever when working on a hull, return the hull to Alnavco and it will also be replaced free of charge.

Finishing Superior Metal Ship Miniatures

By Wayne Smith, Consultant to Alnavco

Unlike plastic models, these have the look and feel of the real ship. These waterline models replicate the appearance of the ship afloat. Since these ships are of the same scale, you can easily compare the size and look of any country’s ships.

I first found these models advertised by Alnavco in “Boys Life” in 1967. After collecting a few, I discovered that the factory was only 18 miles away. At the age of 16, I found myself seeking a job and was hired by Superior. There is nothing better than working at your hobby! I started by finishing ships and spray painting them, then casting them, then making “conversions” and finally making the “masters” from which the castings are made. Drawing on my experience, it is my goal to help you to finish your ships and even create new ones as “conversions”.

A number of the Superior masters are 60 years old as first developed by Authenticast. Relatively plain, but technically accurate, they were used to train aviators and lookouts on ship recognition. Purchased in 1960 by Ian ‘John’ Carter, many were updated with AA guns, deck hatching, and boats and in some cases completely replaced. Superior also obtained the rights to recast the Framburg line. SARATOGA and INDEPENDENCE are excellent models from that company. In 1999 John Carter retired and Alnavco, who had been the primary dealer for the company for 34 years, bought the Superior ship lines and immediately embarked on a program to upgrade many of the models, mainly in the area of casting the secondary turrets separately, as well as issuing models that had not been available for years.

Finishing these ships is relatively straightforward. With the exception of the turrets, catapults, cranes and masts, all other parts and the superstructure are cast in place. To finish these as museum quality models, you will need the following tools:

Beginning Modeler Experienced Modeler Drill and drill bits Flexible drill such as Dremel or Foredom Flexible Shaft Xacto knife Xacto knife Small Needle nose pliers Small Needle nose pliers Liquid Epoxy (fast or slow dry) Epoxy “Needle”Files “Needle Files” Putty Epoxy such as Epoxie-Sculpt(tm) 5x Optivisors Drill Press

These supplies can be found on line at many sites. Recommended is Micro-Mark ( Foredom can be emailed at “”. I advise you to purchase the best tools you can afford. Take a moment to consider the value of the models that you are collecting. My collection grew to 700 ships. Tools amortized over that number of ships were only a fraction of their value.

Each ship has ‘vents’ and flash that need to be removed. Vents are small “flecks” of metal typically located at the waterline on the hull. These are best removed by using a flat file held at a 45° angle. You will want to use a file with close-set teeth so that teeth marks are not left on the hull. Vents may also be found at the end of rangefinders or on top of armor belts. Use the same file on the armor belt. For the vents at the end of range finders, use a sharp Xacto knife to carefully cut it away. An alternative is to use a spring loaded pair of side-cut nail clippers to carefully cut away the vent.

Flash, which is a very thin “membrane” of metal, occurs where the mold halves are joined. Just like a plastic model, flash can be removed by file or by a Xacto knife. Take your time and be careful with your cutting. Turrets have “gate” marks on the rear where the pewter is forced into the cavity in the mold. File this smooth with your needle files.

You should not need to drill pilot holes for turrets, catapults and cranes. You can use the appropriate sized drill the first time. If the hole is not well marked, use a center punch or awl to mark the spot. Use a slightly larger bit than the diameter of the stalk on the part that goes into the hole. You will undoubtedly find that using a Dremel Tool or other flexible shaft drill is easier than a hand drill. A drill press is ideal in many cases because the hole will be straight every time but not many modelers have such equipment. Do not feel that you have to drill a hole all the way through the ship. U.S. ships in particular must be carefully drilled for the catapults and cranes at the stern. You do not need to use the entire stalk to effectively glue it to the hull. A shallow hole and cut off stalk will suffice to fasten the part to the hull. You can use either fast set or slow set epoxies to glue the catapults, etc to the model. Devcon Plastic Steel, JB Bond or “Crazy Glue” are excellent.

Main turrets should be placed into the hole and have the stalk ‘crimped’ or crushed at the bottom so it won’t fall out. Don’t make it too tight or it will not turn. If the stalk protrudes too far through the hull below the waterline, feel free to cut it back. Use the old carpenter’s approach, “Measure twice, and cut once”.

If parts such as barrels or range finders are bent, you can gently straighten them with a finger nail or knife blade. If they should break off, don’t despair! Alnavco will supply your with a replacement turret at no charge. (The same is true for any part with which you have problem. Alnavco takes care of its customers!)

Conversion work is perhaps the most satisfying part of this hobby. With some putty epoxy, filing and filling, you can convert the KONGO to any of her three sisters. Perhaps you want to convert ZARA to POLA with the faring between the superstructure and forward stack. These are good starting projects. A putty type epoxy is an absolute must for this work. Mix the two parts together and you have at least an hour to mold and finish the epoxy. Using a knife and/or dental tools, push, pull and cut the epoxy to the desired shape. Use either mineral spirits or lacquer thinner to moisten the epoxy and tool to assist in shaping it. In our modeler’s club, we had three of us trying to outdo each other. Some of these conversions are now part of Superiors line. They include:

  • REPULSE made from RENOWN and MALAYA
  • KAISER made from KOENIG
  • AMAGI made from TOSA
  • INVINCIBLE 1921 made from WWII LION and NELSON

Some that stayed in our private collections that you could consider are:

  • Japanese No. 13 from the German H and TOSA
  • LANGLEY with a shortened deck and a complete hanger deck with the deck openings cut out so you could see through the ship!

Painting is the final step to finishing your custom model. Alnavco carries the book “The Painter’s Guide to World War Two Naval Camouflage” which is a must-have in any library. It carries complete descriptions of the correct colors and paint manufacturers and many drawings and photos of the ships. By investing your time and ingenuity, you will soon have a collection of masterpieces. It has never ceased to amaze me the number of people, men and women, who stop to gaze at these models because they have never seen anything so small and detailed. When they admire your collection, let them wear the optivisors to really appreciate the depth of your hobby!

On Construction of 1:1200 Scale Model Ships

By Griffin T. Murphey, Dallas, Texas

Most builders have excellent results with the standard methods of model construction which makes extensive use of such materials such as Plastic Steel and epoxy to re-contour parts, restore damaged areas and replace parts such as masts. However, these methods have several disadvantages. Some adhesives lose strength over a period of time and fail. Some filling materials may crack with time and most adhesives and fillers (including epoxies) are damaged by contact with agents used to remove old paint for refinishing. Epoxy tends to build up around parts when used in sufficient quantities to bond well and this often detracts from the appearance of the model.

I have reverted to the “outmoded” method of the soldering gun as my primary tool for ship construction. When used carefully, it produces excellent results that last as long as the model itself. Very fragile but sturdy lattice masts can be soldered together from small gauge brass wire. This is virtually impossible with epoxy. In making the lattice mast for the Superior TONE, Silverstone’s Japanese Warships of WWII and then a plan was made for the construction of fore and aft mainmasts for that ship. The old cast-on mast was removed and the area cleaned up. Holes were drilled to accept the four legs of the foremast and the three legs of the mainmast.

For the foremast, two V-shaped pieces of .102 brass wire were soldered together at the apex of the future mast. Lattices were added starting at the bottom being oversize pieces of brass wire that were cleaned up with an abrasive point on a moto-tool after soldering. Final stages of assembly consisted of adding appropriate parts to the top of the mast. If one applies heat carefully, there is little difficulty with parts adjacent to those being soldered coming loose. The mast is attached to the hull by inserting the over-long legs of the mast into the pre-drilled holes. The legs are then bent over so as not to interfere with the operation of the guns or to extend below the waterline. Solder is then carefully applied. Be careful not to overheat the mast itself. The result is a mast firmly embedded in the model itself as the solder is bonded to the metal of the model itself.

Similarly, the bulky molding of the mainmast on TEXAS was replaced with three pins. These pins must be emoried to expose the brass of the pin and to provide a surface to which the solder can adhere. The old mast was removed and the control top and deck areas cleaned up. Holes were drilled at those points formerly occupied by the “poles” of the one-piece tripod molding. These pins were measured, cut oversize and inserted into the holes of the deck for final measuring. The excess pin length was cut off, allowing for 1/8″ extra length for bending over the bottom of the model. These pins were carefully placed and soldered on the underside of the model. Permabond cement was placed in the holes on the underside of the control top and it was placed on top of the tripod. The control top could have been soldered on the pins first but this is a tricky operation that can ruin a major part easily. (Reprinted from the March 1972 Alnavco LOG)

Super Detailing Your Models

By K. Stewart, Toronto, Ontario

The appearance of your models can be dramatically improved by careful painting and a little innovation with regard to detail. Here are two basic rules of thumb for painting.

1. Use flat (matte) colors.
2. Use very, very thin coats.

Even for colors which on the actual vessel were glass, my experience has been better with flat colors due to the small scale of the models. If you stir oil-based paints frequently, a consistent flat finish is more easily accomplished. I have yet to find a gray primer which consistently dries flat so I usually airbrush on any overall colors other than light gray, which automotive primer does quite nicely. An airbrush is not necessary though if you use well-thinned and stirred paint and a large brush (.25″) for overall colors. It is important to keep coats thin because at 1: scale, even a layer of paint 1/100 of an inch thick represents a foot layer on the subject vessel.

Camouflage Schemes

Basic concepts:

  1. Research your subject!
  2. Try to capture the effect of the scheme rather than slavishly trying to match color exactly and patterns perfectly.
  3. Use the “dominant”color overall and overpaint other colors. Paint colors which exactly match the originals are not only almost impossible to achieve but may look less realistic than colors which are somewhat paler than the original. There is a definite scale effect with colors. The smaller the model is, the bolder the shade will appear. To compensate, lighten up the colors to be used on the model. The same effect applies to camouflage patterns. I don’t usually worry about duplicating the original pattern but rather capturing the effect.


Miscellaneous Painting and Detailing Tips

Carrier decks in most navies carried markings which can easily be done with Letraset rub-on markings ( A variety of letters, numbers and lines are available in white and black. U.S. carriers carried some form of aerial recognition markings either an abbreviation of the ship’s name or her hull number. For example, the USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) carried an “EN” on her bow and stern. Later in the war a “6” in block numerals was added (for CV-6).

German vessels had brightly painted turret roofs (BISMARCK’s were yellow at the time of her famous sortie in May 1941.). Other colors used were sky blue and carimine. German vessels also carried the Nazi flag on the forecastle and stern. This can be simulated by using the kill markings for 1/72nd scale aircraft (available at hobby stores) on a background of red paint.Very usable flags are on GHQ Micro-Armour decal sheets (D-11, available from Alnavco. Check GHQ listings in armour section of the website).

Italian vessels of cruiser size and above often had the entire forecastle to the level of the “A” turret painted with diagonal red and white stripes. The Italian air force apparently had great difficulty with warship recognition.

Japanese ships invariably carried a red “meatball” sometimes backed by a white square. Carriers wore it on the flight deck, other combatants on “A” turret. Pre-war DD’s often wore their name in Japanese script along the hull. If you have an artistic bent, you can reproduce a reasonable facsimile with a fine brush and white paint. Japanese vessels of cruiser size and below had a form of linoleum deck covering which was usually light gray in color.

American ships had few aerial recognition devices and in fact painted over wooden decks. One common scheme, Measure Z1, involved painting all upward facings dark blue. British ships also wore few recognition devices. British ships also wore few recognition devices. A form of non-slip covering used was gray-green in color. Other non-planked surfaces were dark gray. Modern Russian vessels and many merchantmen of all nations now use red oxide preservative paint in all planked areas.

Finishing Hints

Fill in the name appearing on the side of some Superior models with plastic wood or liquid aluminum and sand smooth. Use cutup fine wire for spare depth charges on DD’s.

Masts: Superior models come with two types of masts. Some have cast tripods which are almost impossible to separate into three distinct legs and some have pin-type pole masts. Both can be dramatically improved. With the solid tripods, remove the star-shaped platform (on major vessels) from the top of the masts and set it aside. Then use needle-nose pliers and file to remove all traces of the mast. A new tripod can be erected using a pin cut to the correct size for the vertical leg and thin wire for the diagonal legs. Crazy Glue is very effective for building structures of this type.

The star (if any) can be filed down and glued at the top of the much more realistic tripod and cross trees added. The pin-type masts of vessels which should have tripods can be built into tripods in this manner and eve pole-type masts look better with cross trees added. Spare pieces of plastic can be added to simulate radar antennae, crow’s nest, radio antennae, etc. This is one of the easiest ways to add realism to your models and while it takes a bit of practice, it is well worth the effort. The resulting masts are surprisingly strong. (Reprinted from the Alnavco LOG, #22)

Japanese Navy Painting Schemes 1941-1945

By Kevin Pinder, Baltimore, Maryland

All Japanese warships during WWII were painted an overall bluish gray color called “wartime painting color.” It was adapted by the IJN just prior to the Russo-Japanese War. The only exception to this was the late war painting of Japanese aircraft carriers. These were painted a pale light green although I doubt that this color was used after the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese also made several experiments into light and dark gray camouflage. There are photo representations of this in most books concerning the IJN. Undersides of Japanese hulls were painted a red-brown color.

During peacetime, Japanese warships had wood or linoleum decks to dissipate heat from the lower spaces. However, the lessons from Manila Bay and many other battles, Tsushima not low on that list, which pointed out the fire hazard burnable decks were, were not lost on the Japanese. At the outbreak of war, many warships had iron plates mounted over the combustible surfaces and were painted the same color as the rest of the hull and superstructure. The vast majority of light cruisers and destroyers were so fitted with these plates although there were exceptions as any thorough check of available photos will show. Some but not a majority of heavy cruisers were also fitted.

Battleships and carriers had unpainted wood for deck covering. The plating should be painted the same color as the rest of the hull and superstructure. Linoleum decks should be painted red-brown while wood decks should be painted a teak color or a light beige brown.

All Japanese warships had their funnel caps painted black which included the top of the stack and a band extending just slightly down the funnel wall. Most of the Japanese cruisers had a special painting design for their after or mainmasts. This usually was accompanied by a white band around the platform at the juncture of the main tripod. This scheme was the dominant type used in light cruisers. The second variety is a totally black mast with an incidental white band around one of the poles. The third variety was to have a mast painted as the rest of the ship but had all three poles of the base tripod start black all at the same level about half way from the deck to the first juncture and remain black the rest of the way up. This pattern dominated the heavy cruiser types.

In general, the point where the gun barrels enter the turrets on all turret or shielded mounts were painted white. There should be a small gold dot on the stern most part of the hull up near the deck level. This represents the Imperial Crysanthemum.

Just below the funnel cap on some Japanese warships there were white bands painted. These bands were mounted in the 1930’s for ling range ID purposes and as there were few wartime photos, I do not know whether they were continued after 7 December. The information is scanty as to which ships wore which bands and sometimes one ship had several different patterns between the wars. I have found information on the following:

ShipNo. of BandsWhich Stack
AMAGIRI1 large over 1 smallsecond

Add Some Color To Your German Models

By Bill Hoover, Milwaukee, WI

Is your collection of German ship models rather drab in their light gray or simple camouflage schemes? If so, read on and add some color to them.

First, let’s add aircraft recognition markings to the bow of your ships. The first step is to paint a red rectangle just aft of the anchor winch capstans. The rectangle should be 1/4″ by 3/16″. That’s length by width. I prefer to use some old red decals cut to size but they can be painted. After the paint has dried, cut an “O” from a Micro Scale RN10 decal sheet. The “O” should be the circular type from the words, “Union Pacific”. The “O” should be centered on the field of red and set with a decal setting solution. When dry, fill in with white paint. The next step is to cut a Swastika from Micro Scale’s sheet #72-2, The Swastikas are actually kill markings for Allied aircraft in 1/72 scale. Again, center the Swastika on the circle.

You now have added a little color to your German ships but let’s carry aircraft recognition a bit further. The Germans also painted the main battery tops different colors to aid in recognition to friendly aircraft. For example, PRINZ EUGEN had light pink turret tops. To accomplish this, paint the turret top down to where the top meets the side of light pink. All four main battery turrets were painted thusly. Another example of this type of marking was the yellow tops on LUTZOW. Try it, you’ll like it!

Finally to be truly different, paint ADMIRAL SCHEER entirely dark blue. This was done in the winter of 1944/45 because this was the only color available and so she was daubed in this rather unusual color. In regards to the turret top colors, almost any color can be used but stay away from the darker colors as lighter colors were the orders of the day. Have fun! (Reprinted from September 1973 Alnavco LOG)