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Working with resin ships- The Basics

By Mike Taylor

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  Before we get into the particular techniques involved in building resin ships, let’s first look at some techniques that should be used in the building on ship models in general. 

Ship models, due to their intricate details and numerous small parts, must be handled as little as possible. To enable myself to have access to all sides of the ship, yet not touch it while working on it I usually mount it with rolled over masking tape to a piece of cardboard. Make sure the cardboard is large enough to extend at least 20cm beyond all sides of the ship. This protects it from being bumped into anything. In this way you can hold the ship in your hand and maneuver it to any angle without actually touching it.

If you’re going to put the ship on a water base the time to begin this work is before you begin to work on the ship. The reason is that you need to handle the hull and use it to mark it’s position on the base. If you wait until after the ship is assembled, or even painted you risk damaging any railing you may have added or rubbing off the paint.


  Many of the techniques I will discuss here may be used on resin and plastic ship kits. Let’s start at the beginning....

The subject for this article is High Molds USS West Virginia in 1/700. The ship is represented in it’s 1941 fit and I have decided to do a small Pearl Harbor diorama combining it with Corsair Armadas USS Vestal repair ship and USS Hoga Tug. High Molds kit is state of the art where resin casting is concerned. The molding is exceptional as well as the engineering of the parts and the overpour from the rubber molds. I find it helpful to wash the resin pieces with warm water and dish soap just to ensure that there is no mold release present on the parts. You should have at your disposal varying grades of wet or dry sandpaper, modeling files, tweezers, nail clippers and your favorite cyanoacrylate (“super”) glue.


  I began by positioning the kit hulls on my cutting board to find out how large my base needed to be. Once I had the kits and the base I placed masking tape on the base then positioned the hulls on the masking tape and traced them with the tip of an exacto knife. After removing the excess masking tape you are left with the masking tape “footprint” of each ship on the base. Then I mask the edges of the base and also a spot for a nameplate with 2 to 3 layers of masking tape. The area left uncovered represents the water. As this was going to be a harbor I airbrushed this area with a blue/green color, and prepared to use my “calm water” technique for the base. This is very simple. Once the ships positions are determined and masked and the borders are masked and the water is painted pour some acrylic gloss varnish over the base and spread it out with a fan brush. This acrylic varnish is used by artists and can be found in most art supply or craft stores. It is milky in appearance and has the consistency of maple syrup. Once spread out on the base it will even itself out and once dry it is clear and glossy. The base can be set aside until later.

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   I begin the ship by painting the hull color. In this case I used gunship gray with a little black. The entire hull and deck area is painted as well as any other large parts. Once this has dried a coat of acrylic floor wax (Future or Kleer) is applied overall to act as a barrier between 2 different colors of paint and to smooth the surfaces to allow paint to flow more freely. Once this has dried I brush paint the decks. The paint is thinned to allow it to flow along the bulkheads and other deck details.

The ship is then assembled following the instructions. Different deck levels are attached to a piece of cardboard and painted, then glossed. Any windows or portholes are then painted dark blue and a light drybrush of lightened Gunship Gray is applied. Small parts like searchlights and guns are painted while still on their sprues then cut off and attached as required. The photo etched parts are painted the hull color while attached to their frame then cut out, shaped (if required) and superglued in place. Once the glue has dried they are touched up with the correct color with a small brush. The cage masts were painted light gray overall, then referencing the instructions, were masked off and the lower color was applied before they were removed and rolled to shape. To shape the masts I began rolling them with a large diameter paint brush. Then I worked my way down to smaller diameter brush handles until I had a nice round cross section and the 2 ends met along their length. Carefully holding it in my hand and aligning the meeting surfaces I applied superglue along the joint with a toothpick. I used a round file to enlarge the opening in the center of the mainmast searchlight platform until it slid easily into its position on the mast. Before I glued it into place I added the railing surrounding the platform and the searchlights. Once the Fighting top was attached I cemented the masts into place with slow drying super glue. This allowed me time to make sure they were aligned along the centerline from above , were sitting straight up and down, and were aligned to each other when looked at from the bow or stern. The blast bags for the main turrets were made by building up layers of white glue, then painted white. The photo etched boat cranes and stern catapult crane were bent to shape and assembled. The stern catapult was replaced with a photo etched catapult from Gold Medal Models Cruiser/Destroyer set. It may not be 100% accurate for this ship but it looks fine and I preferred it over the white metal kit offering. Now we are ready to set the ship on the base.

   By this time the acrylic water has dried and left us with a nice clear gloss surface over our painted water color. Using a sharp exact you need to cut through this water, tracing the masking tape outline of the ships hull. Once this is done you can raise the bow or stern point and peel it off leaving a space for the hull recessed to the deepness of the acrylic water layer (about 3mm). Now place the built up hull in place using a thin layer of white glue or the acrylic lacquer to secure it. Once this has dried I like to drill down through the hull to screw it to the base for added strength. I drill a hole through the center of the #1 turret mount and the #4 turret mount. Small screws are used and care is taken that the turrets sit flush on their barbettes.


Now this ship is securely fastened to the base. Setting the ship on the base is the only time you should need to touch the ship once assembly has begun. With the ship firmly in place photo etched railing can now be added. I begin to add railing from the uppermost first working my way down to the main deck level. For the rigging I like to use 4 mil ceramic fiber or boron fiber. Using dividers I measure the distance between the 2 points then transfer that to a piece of paper. Then I place the rigging material between the 2 points and cut it with an exacto. Then both ends are dipped into superglue and the rigging is placed-working from the center of the ship out. Since this ship is at anchor I gave it a final coat of dullcoat to eliminate glue spots and blend it together. If it were at sea I’d give it an overall coat of gloss, either to make it overall very glossy or glossy at the waterline working up to semi gloss at the mast tops-ships at sea are wet.

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  I can’t say enough about the quality of this Hi Mold kit. It was a fun kit to build with no surprises....Mike Taylor