David Okamura's Reviews

GPM Arizona
Alcan Wasa
Wilhenshaven Constitution
Fly Model Constitution
JSC Mikasa
JSC Yamato
Claude L'Honnen's Sailboat Egoist
2002 Western Ship Model Conference

GPM nr 02 -- USS Arizona

This 1:400 scale waterline model comes in a booklet with six A4-sized pages, with the ship's history, brief instructions (in Polish) and assembly diagrams on the inside cover. Top and side view diagrams of the completed ship are printed on the back cover. It is printed in two shades of gray and a yellowish "wood" color, with coloring on the back side of the page for splinter shields and gun barrels. There are approximately 700 parts. When complete the ship is slightly less than 18 inches long, with a 2.75-inch beam.

While it is difficult to determine by simply looking at the parts, the model seems to capture the right proportions of the battleship. With all the bulkheads, the hull should be quite rigid and deck sag almost non-existent. The coloring is very simple, with no plating details, shadowing or weathering. The decking seems a tad too yellow and the staggered planking too regular to be realistic. Perhaps a careful wash will tone the color down a bit. However, the planking on the boat deck is wrong. This should be painted a dark gray. You may want to trace the anti-aircraft gun shield locations before painting, then transfer the lines back after the paint dries.

On the inside of the back cover is a pattern shaped like an upside-down "u". You should make 12 out of tissue paper and wrap them around the 14-inch main guns where they enter the turret. Paint them black.

The 5-inch guns along the sides are depicted as solid casements. They were actually open, with canvas wrapped around the barrels to keep the weather out. Light tan paint should remedy this.

The boats are very simple, with no interior detail. Since most were covered with tarps, you might want to draw the tarp ends and securing ropes along the boat sides. The motor launches need much more work.

The observation planes are disappointing. They are colored gray, with no canopy detail or national insignias. Actually, the planes were blue with gray undersides. The US insignia was a white star with a red dot in a blue circle, which is a bit tricky to create if you don't have a decal in the right size.

The anchors should be hull gray rather than black. Anchor chains must be added.

Overall, the model seems to be technically accurate but lacking in the artwork department. This is a shame, since the model's fairly large size makes the lack of detail even more apparent. With a bit of work one can make an attractive battleship, but I wouldn't go to the trouble or expense of using photoetched brass railings. If you have the shelf space, I'd recommend Digital Navy's 1:250 scale full-hull USS Arizona.

Don't get the impression that I'm disappointed with my prize. I may try upgrading this model in the future. If I do, I'll keep you informed. If you like, Saul, you can include the above comments in the reviews page. Thanks again for the model!

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Alcan Wasa 1628

This 1:100 scale kit consists of 7 nicely-printed and varnished pages (9.25 by 25.75 inches), 2 pages of bulkheads, 3 pages of sails (in thinner paper), and one sheet of acetate with printed ratlines. Also included is a sheet of diagram instructions (rather comprehensive) and some tan cord for the standing rigging. (It appears from the instructions that I was supposed to get some thinner cord for the running rigging, but I already have suitable thread.) There are 370 pieces, which isn't much for a full-hull sailing ship. The completed model is 28 inches long.

I was concerned that the Wasa would look crude due to its large size and small parts count. After all, the intricate carvings that embellished the original ship would only be 2-dimensional. 370 parts doesn't allow for much detail, and the spars and topmasts are flat laminations rather than thin rolled cylinders. However, looking at the cover photo and the parts I was rather impressed. At first glance, it could hold its own against some traditional wooden ship models. The printing is very good, not overly colorful or garish. One nice touch is the open gunports. You make a black box behind the opening from which the cannon emerges, creating a sense of depth.

The hull construction is unique--I've never seen this before. You laminate one centerline template on a slightly larger piece of paper, then tape the sheet to a tabletop, ensuring that the template is perfectly flat. Bulkheads, spacers and then the hull sides are added. The completed half-hull is removed and the backing paper trimmed. After repeating the same process for the other side, the two halves are glued together, the joint line later covered with a section of decking, the stern galleries, rudder and keel.

Overall, this is a great model for a beginner, and the more experienced can really make this ship look good with authentic rigging. Real ratlines and blocks would be a major improvement. At $25 (PMI's price), it's a bargain. I hope Alcan follows up with more ship models. While not quite in the same league as Shipyard, Alcan has a winner here.

The instructions do not mention this, but I suspect the pages should be laminated to thin cardstock for more rigidity. I'm checking to see what thickness should be used. Has anyone had experience with Alcan models to make a suggestion, or is the paper sufficiently stiff to be self-supporting? Thanks!

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Wilhelmshaven 1265
USS Constitution "Old Ironsides"
Waterline model, 1:250 scale
This model comes in two 12-inch by 17-inch sheets of Wilhelmshaven's usual fine paper, though I also received an extra blank sheet. There are 387 parts. The deck color is fine, though the gratings, hatches, ladders, boat seats and pin rails are in a bright yellow. (I suppose this won't look too glaring once the model is complete.) Masts, gun carriages and the helm are red-brown. The insides of the bulwarks and one boat are green, which surprised me at first. I'm used to seeing these areas as white, so I checked the USS Constitution website. Sure enough, the color is correct. There are 8 pages of instructions with diagrams, plus patterns for 15 sails.

This is a fairly accurate replica of Old Ironsides in her present configuration, though there are obvious compromises due to the extremely small scale. For instance, the ship's wheel only has 8 spokes instead of 12, there are no ratline patterns or even deadeyes, and minimal rigging detail. While the guns are rather simple, there's a annoying little bugaboo. After you glue the muzzle with the red plug in place, you're supposed to add the muzzle lip for a more 3-dimensional effect. This means carefully cutting out a 1.5 mm circle with a 1 mm hole and gluing this miniature paper donut to the ends of 56 cannons and carronades! I definitely think the final effect will not justify the frustration, so I intend to omit this piece. If necessary, I'll just build up the lip with black paint when I come to the touch-up phase.

If you don't intend to use sails, be advised that some spars should be lowered. Use photos of the USS Constitution at dockside as an example. Signal flags are provided, so you can run up your own stirring version of "England expects...", perhaps "G-O...N-A-V-Y...B-E-A-T...A-R-M-Y." ;-) However, I found some flags to be slightly blurred. More surprisingly, there's no national flags, naval ensign or pennants, even though they appear in the rigging diagrams. I can download a 15-star, 15-stripe US flag circa the War of 1812 from the Flags of the World website, but I might have to create the period ensigns and pennants from scratch. (NOTE: Louis Dausse of PMI has confirmed that American flags were supposed to be included with this model. Wilhelmshaven is sending replacements.)

Overall, this ship looks quite good and would make a nice contrast alongside more modern waterline models in 1:250 scale. As mentioned before, it's too small for the extensive detailing traditional ship modelers prefer (1:250 doesn't really coincide with any traditional shipmodeler's scale, being closest to 3/64 inch to the foot), but you can add some handling tackle to the gun carriages, make the rigging more accurate, and so on. I'm looking forward to building it.

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Fly Model Nr 120
USS Constitution
Full hull model, 1:100 scale

Wow. This is huge--4 pages of Polish instructions, 11 pages of extremely detailed diagrams (you don't see such quality in many wood kits), and 17 pages of beautifully-drafted parts, all in 11 7/8-inch by 16 1/2-inch sheets. 5,500 parts. Whew.

1:100 scale is close to the traditional shipmodelers scale of 1:96 (1/8 inch to the foot), and the ship is full of the detail normally associated with this size. There is a fully-equipped gun deck, with overhead beams, galley stove and even some furniture in the captain's cabin. Rigging instructions show spars in their lowered and sail-equipped positions, and the 15 sails have full detail, compared to the simple blank patterns provided by Wilhelmshaven. The bottom is coppered--actually more of a dark gold metallic was used, but that's fine. Copper varies widely in color, especially when exposed to the elements. No stand is provided. There's even plans showing the hammock netting along the sides.

Flags are printed on a slightly glossy sheet, with the cannons, ornamentation and one sail. A few minor nitpicks concerning this page: The flag colors seem a bit washed out, and I'd prefer my cannon barrels slightly darker (perhaps a wash will take care of that). Also, even if you spray that odd sail with matte to kill the gloss surface, it will still stand out against all the other canvas. I'd recommend tracing it to another paper sheet with a more suitable texture. The gold used for the stern decorations and bow scrolls just doesn't seem right. I might suggest using the pieces as patterns for white replacements. The eagle on the stern also looks a bit crude.

Now here's the biggest problem with an otherwise gorgeous kit--the hull coloring is all wrong. The decks are in a wonderful wood tone, but so is everything else! Old Ironsides had a black hull since her early days during the wars with the Barbary Pirates, and the white stripe along her gunports has lasted for about a century and a half. The model's bow indicates an early appearance, perhaps the closing days of the War of 1812 when a fiddlehead was installed. The gun carriages and gundeck walls should be red (to hide the blood), the upper bulwarks (apparently) green, boats white, hull black and the stripe either buff or white, depending on your research. I'm rather in a quandary over how exactly to re-tint this model without warping the paper or obscuring the print lines. Ink markers will be darker on overlapping strokes, and they will fade rapidly when exposed to light. It's difficult to maintain an even consistency with water colors, and you run the risk of warping. Perhaps careful airbrushing with acrylics is the answer?

I have to say that the Fly Model USS Constitution is a flawed masterpiece. I really could not understand why a superbly-designed kit would be so inaccurate in the color scheme. Then it hit me--like Shipyard, Fly Model apparently used a 1:92 scale wood model as a reference when designing their paper ship. The result was a faithful copy of the original UNPAINTED model planked in natural wood! At least, that's my conclusion.
What Now?
The Fly Model is too good to leave unbuilt, but I'll need more space to display it. It will also require a lot of re-coloring to make it acceptable to my tastes. Mark Lardas is considering building his Fly Model Constitution as she appeared in the late 1800's, converted to a roofed-over receiving ship. I might build my model as one of Old Ironsides' sister ships, either the USS United States or the USS President. More research is needed before I make my final decision.

I'll probably start work on the Wilhelmshaven USS Constitution, but I'm checking to see whether I can scan and reduce the Fly Model bottom hull and rudder to fit. (Wilhelmshaven waterline color doesn't match the Fly Model coppering, but photos show a red boot topping on the actual ship. Apparently the copper along the waterline needs more protection due to exposure to oxygen and wave action.) I'll also reduce some of Fly model's sails to duplicate the reduced rig Constitution used when she sailed last year in honor of her bicentennial.

I might have found the answer to my Old Ironsides (Old Papersides?) problem. As you know, I was wondering what art medium I should use to recolor the wood-tinted Fly Model USS Constitution. It's difficult to maintain an even appearance with ink markers, and the color fades rapidly. Watercolors may warp the paper, and their longevity is also suspect. Pastels are a powdery mess. Colored artist pencils are an option, but this could weaken the paper as fibers are crushed under the pencil point. Wax crayons were never seriously considered. This left acrylic paints, but I wasn't overly keen on airbrushing or applying it by hand.

I was discussing this matter with my friend Ben, who once headed the graphic art department at McDonnell Douglas. He suggested oil-based art pencils, which go on much smoother and can be blended. Checking my local art store, I found oil pastels which seem to match his description. I would need to spray an artist fixative before applying these colors, so the oil won't penetrate the paper. Afterwards, another coat should prevent smearing.

Using oil pastels and my artist pencils, I could also add subtle shading, woodgrain and weathering effects. However, I was wondering if anyone has already tried this method and could offer any suggestions (or warnings) before I risk this model. Am I overlooking something, or is this my best option? I appreciate any feedback.

I'm already seriously thinking about which paper ship models to build for the next Western Ship Model conference in 2002. I ordered the JSC 1:400 scale Mikasa and the new Yamato from PMI, thinking that the two models would make a good study in contrasts, mainly in size. When they arrived in the mail, I was rather surprised. While both are produced by the same company, printed on the same paper with similar colors, there's quite a difference in overall appearance. It's amazing what computer-aided design can accomplish. Here are my initial impressions:

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1:400 scale, waterline model
copyright 1993

Built in 1902 by Vickers, the Mikasa was Admiral Togo's flagship during the Battle of Tsushima. It is now preserved in Japan, the last surviving pre-dreadnought battleship. The model represents the ship's original appearance. It comprises four A4-sized sheets of paper, plus instructions and diagrams. The model has a black hull with light gray superstructure (the cover illustration gives the impression of a white superstructure) and tan wood decks. Flags and the Imperial chrysanthemum bow crest are printed in color on the back cover.

The coloring is simple, with no weathering. The wood decks looks good as is, so I wouldn't change the color. However, I believe the tan ventilation grills on the top of the main gun turrets should actually match the turret color. I've seen pictures of the Mikasa with both white and gray topsides, so I assume the gray is her "war scheme". The gray anchors provide some contrast when lying in their positions, but they should actually be black.

The instructions warn that the model's spine of rectangular boxes is an experiment, but kit reviews by fellow modelers lead me to believe that other JSC ships use this method. Another box supports the superstructure. Assembly seems straightfoward. The four main guns must be shaped from thin wood dowels, though I might use Digital Navy's HMS Dreadnought guns as a pattern and then roll and trim down to size. The lower masts must be made out of 3/32 inch tubing. Unfortunately, the English translation doesn't specify the lengths. Unless I can locate this information in the original Polish instructions, I'll have to eyeball it from the side view diagram. I hope it's accurate in the proportions. Smaller guns and mast spars must be made from wire, as usual. Anchor chains are printed on the main deck, but miniature chain should be glued over this. There are also small blank pieces of gray and tan paper for filling gaps and other finishing touches. I'd probably cut gray deck hatch covers and glue them over the printed ones to get a more three-dimensional effect.

There are no railings, not even around the bridge wings, though some ladders are provided. Photo-etched railings would greatly improve the appearance. While they are quite prominent in the illustration, neither the instructions or the diagrams show the location for the torpedo net booms. You'll need to check your references on this matter. By far the biggest disappointment were the ship's boats. There are 14 lifeboats of various sizes, but they have no seat detail. The 3 launches also lack propellers and rudders. The boats would probably not be covered with tarps in wartime (unless weather conditions were severe), so you need to add more detail.

Overall, this seems to be a good little model--about 13 inches long. Coloring and details are simple, but with a little extra work and subtle weathering you can create an attractive replica of a unique and historic ship which probably won't be released in styrene anytime soon.

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1:400 scale, waterline model
copyright 1999

What a difference six years (and computer drafting) can make. I heard that this model won a gold medal at a Warsaw model championship, and after examining the twelve A4 sized sheets, detailed instructions and diagrams, I have to concur with the judges. The model is printed in gray and the same wood tan as the Mikasa, but all the lines are extremely fine. While perfectly acceptable, the Mikasa's plank lines look oversize and crude compared to the Yamato's. Then again, perhaps they just cut their lumber thinner during the 1930's... ;-)

Floatplanes and flags are printed in nice color on the back cover, but be careful! It's way too easy to ruin these pieces by soiling, tearing or wrinkling the cover. Also, excessive handling will cause the colors to smear and fade.

A triangular spine is used for this model. Pay special care when building the hull as the Yamato had many graceful curves, particularly in the long, flaring bow. The main gun turrets alone have more parts than some boat models I've built, and I predict that I will go absolutely bonkers halfway through building all those anti-aircraft batteries. The Yamato is depicted in her final appearance, bristling with AA guns. They did little good--the Americans only lost 10 aircraft when they sank the Yamato in early 1945.

There are tiny dots along the deck edges for railing stanchions. I believe 1:400 scale photo-etched parts for a plastic Yamato kit are available, so one could add railings and replace the paper aircraft crane, catapults and radar with more realistic brass. However, I'm tempted to keep the original parts in their "solid" form to emphasize the paper nature of this model. I might replace the anchor chain with miniature chain, though.

Since there are so many plastic models of the Yamato in 1:700, 1:600, 1:400 and 1:350 scales (and I know some models that are even larger!), I was slightly wary of buying a paper model which would be immediately compared to its styrene counterparts. However, if my modeling skills (and patience) is up to the same level as this kit's quality, I'd gladly anchor this JSC Yamato alongside any plastic Yamato and let the salvos fly! This is a masterpiece.

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Claude L'Honnen's Egoist sailboat modeled by Gheorghe.

Over the holidays I got a bit side tracked from my current project. The Egoist sailboat at http://www.multimania.com/egoist/common/paperego/paperego.htm had captured my fancy due to its unique design. Having built all of Kevin Green's Pocket Yachts, I just HAD to try the Egoist.

First, I printed the files at 94%, so the 1:30 scale would be compatible with the Pocket Yachts' 1:32 scale. Be sure to use thick cardstock for sheet 1 (at least 140 -160 lb), or the text and bulkhead lines printed on the hull's interior will show through. I also looked around the Egoist website (homepage is http://www.multimania.com/egoist/z/indexz.html) and printed out some drawings of the hull and sail plans. These were extremely helpful when building the model.

The three bulkheads should be laminated on thicker cardboard for strength, but the back of bulkhead 3 should be white, since that is the inside of the cockpit. The slots on bulkheads 2 and 3 are way too short, as will be seen after installing the centerboard trunks. I also laminated the hatches on thicker card for a more three-dimensional effect. You might also consider laminating the cabin top onto another sheet of thin cardstock, so as to avoid the "oilcan effect".

Be careful putting the hull together, as white models are unforgiving when it comes to grubby fingers. You will be doing a lot of handling when assembling the hull, so I highly recommend sealing both sides of sheet 1 with a clear spray. The instructions say to glue the hull seams first and then fold and glue the transom. I advocate gluing the hull tabs to the transom first, and then glue the seams, using a knife or letter opener to apply the glue. The bottom seams should line up perfectly.

The centerboards caused a little difficulty. There are no pivot holes for the aft centerboard or the aft centerboard trunk (also the rudder boxes). Careful checking of the actual boat hull plans determined the location of these holes, and the angles of the boards when extended or retracted. For the centerboards I simply inserted half a staple through the holes and crimped it. The rudders required a bit more work. I inserted a short piece of wire through the rudder assembly and snipped off both ends as flush as my wire cutters would allow, keeping the assembly tightly squeezed between my fingers so it wouldn't pop open. Two minute blobs of white glue placed over the wire ends secured the pin in position. (A paperclip will keep it together as the glue dries.) You want to have the rudder box pivot hole as small as possible so the glue won't leak in. The pivot holes on the rudders and centerboards were larger to ensure free movement. A little touch up of white paint hid the pin afterwards.

When attaching the centerboard / trunk assemblies to the hull, test the boards to see if they open to the correct angle, and glue accordingly. I found that I had to lengthen the slots slightly on the forward pair so that the blades can retract properly. The aft centerboard kept disappearing in its slot until I wedged in a stop. I laminated the black printed sides of the keel stumps together, so the resulting all-white pieces would blend in with the rest of the hull.

Of course, you could simply fix the centerboards and rudders in position and not worry about moving parts, but since no stand is provided, it's very convenient to have the model resting on its bottom with the blades protected. Usually, I consider moving parts to be an invitation for overhandling and excessive wear, but in this case the retractable centerboards are a great part of the model's appeal.

As mentioned before, the bulkhead slots are too short, especially bulkhead 2. Extend the slots to fit. You will also have to cut the slots in the cockpit fore frame all the way to the cockpit floor, and also cut a small piece in the floor tab to accommodate the mainmast. This piece will be VERY flimsy until its glued to bulkhead 2. A slot in the cockpit aft frame must also be cut.

Check the original boat's sail plans carefully when building the masts and sails. I split thin bamboo skewers and stuffed them inside the masts to stiffen them. If you glue the masts securely you shouldn't get much wobble, but since I wanted to display both chaloupe and junk rigs, I scratchbuilt another set of masts (you need to make the foremast at least a half-inch longer for junk rig), and fabricated a couple short square tubes so the masts can slide in and out without leaning askew. The bowsprit is removable and the jib is glued to a string that is attached to the foremast, but has a small loop around the bowsprit which can be slid off.

In either sail plan, this is a very interesting boat which fits in quite well with Kevin Green's fleet. If you enjoyed building the Pocket Yachts, the Egoist would be another pleasant building project, if you keep the above cautions in mind. Enjoy!

Some more notes concerning the Egoist -- when fully extended, the twin forward centerboards and the rudders should be at the same angle and in alignment when viewed directly from the bow or stern. When gluing the stem onto the bow, do one side at a time and wait until the glue dries before attaching the other side. It is difficult to keep the hull pieces at the right angle printed on the stem if you're busy gluing both sides at once.

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This page was created by:
Saul H. Jacobs M.Ed.
Docent: Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, AZ.
Avionics Specialist, United States Air Force (Retired)
Microcomputer Technology, Pima Community College (Retired)
Tucson Arizona