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DKM Battleship Bismarck
Operation "Rheinübung", May 1941
Why this ship?
The Bismarck kit was the one that started it all. I got it as a Christmas present in 2017, and I am happy I did.
What was added
Here I cheated a bit. After some research I realised that this kit would not look anywhere as good without the wooden deck and railings, so I ordered these online. I think ship models need these as a minimum, particularly if you are building in a large scale like 1/350. I resisted the temptation to buy photo etch for other details, so the radars, guns, catapults, cranes, and other details are all from the box.
Other "upgrades" were scratch-built.
Notes and lessons learned
This was a trouble-free build. I highly recommend the Tamiya Bismarck if you are planning to build your first ship. Everything just fitted magically. There was little filling and sanding involved - mostly to remove seam lines in the bridge assembly.
My model is intended to capture what the Bismarck looked like at some point between its sea trials in the Baltic and the early stages of its first (and only) sortie. The camouflage stripes are still in the hull, but don't extend to the superstructure, and it still has the swatikas for aerial recognition in both bow and stern. It still has the jackstaff and the flagstaff.
One place that caused me a little bit of trouble was the part of the superstructure near the fore secondary turrets. This part bulges in to make room for the turret to rotate, creating an alcove. I installed the secondary battery according to instructions. When the upper levels of the superstructure were installed, there was a visible seam line running horizontally in this alcove, which was nearly impossible to get rid of due to the lack of access. It took me a lot of improvisation involving pieces of sand paper attached to sticks, Vallejo putty, and hand-painting with a fine brush to mask this problem a bit. The final touches were done with a lot of Tamiya weathering master soot from their set B. Fortunately this was a place that (I felt) would get very dirty anyway from the guns firing very close by...
I made blast bags for the primary and secondary guns by sculpting some blu-tack into the right shapes, and then sealing them with hand-painted clear gloss. Some soot was applied as part of weathering the turrets.
A jackstaff was not provided in the kit, so I made one from a sawed and sanded hypodermic needle, and glued in place with cyanoacrylate glue.
Rigging was done with human hair (Thank you Isabella!).
The model out of the box does not represent the portholes in the superstructure. I drilled them using a pin vise, according to reference photos I found online.
This being my first experience with photo etch railings, it is worth mentioning that this was a trouble-free stage of the build. Just don't hurry it. I painted all the railings before bending into shape and glueing, which meant lots of touch-ups with a fine paintbrush to avoid shiny bits. This stopped being an issue after the final coat with Tamiya flat clear spray.
The deck swastikas are not provided in the kit. I printed them within white circles using Experts-Choice decal film. The decals were applied over pre-painted red sections of decking.
For the hull I mixed Tamiya hull red (XF-9) with a lighter tone of red (XF-7). I deliberately mixed in different proportions for each application with the airbrush. This created (in my view) some interesting variations that resulted a more realistic appearance.
I improved the Arado planes a bit by making propellers from Evergreen strips. The kit does not come with decals for the plane so the markings you see in the photos were hand-painted.
The least satisfactory part of this model is the trapeze used to hold the planes in the catapult. The real trapezes looked like cages, but the model comes with a very simple solid piece of plastic. This is where the photo etch upgrades really would make a difference. I opted to do the best I could within the "out of the box" approach, which was to draw the trapeze legs and braces using a fine-line metallic pen.