A tale of 3 USS Lake Erie's  by Douglas Conrady
Chapter #1
After my posting of the first LKE, I was contacted by a a member of the wardroom in early 2010.  The wardroom wanted a going away present for their captain, who was transferring off.  Since I did such a great job last time (in their opinion), I was their choice to build for them.  When the initial contact was finished, I had but 2 months to build a full hull LKE made up just like it was configured in early 2010.

I thought I could pull it off.  I quickly ordered parts and went after it.  Since I was talking with current members aboard the ship, I was given a list of details I had gotten wrong with the first one.  I knew there were things wrong, but had no access to find out what.  That all changed.  All I had to do was ask for a picture of an area that was in question, or that was pointed out to be wrong.  I knew better than to ask for things that might be considered secure areas.

I decided that since this was my second LKE, and there might be more, each one would have its own special detail, that I wouldn't duplicate, ever.  This one's is the captains chairs.  I scratch built them out of plastic for the seat and back, and brass for the arms.  Along with chairs, I scratched the NULKAS.  I was given the dimensions and scrounged around for the right plastic.  Had I known, I would've cast about 30 of 'em.

One of the details that I was corrected on was the area below where a RHIB goes.  The LKE was different than the kit.  When I built the original, I knew something wasn't right in that area, but I could never place it.  Funny what a few pics will do.  I used plastic sheet to box in the area that I had cut out. 1-01
On this version, I was able to open up the hanger bay.  Based on a couple of photos, I added some detail to the hanger.  I added shelves to the fwd wall and supports or lights to the lid (not sure which one).  On the side walls, I added a few platforms and other "things" that appeared in the pics.  I also painted boxes and doors and other details on the walls and shelves. 1-02
This is what I did to secure the brass finials to the ship.  The nuts came round, and to keep them from spinning, I took a grinder to them to make 2 flat sides.  I also made them to fit a 9/16 wrench, just in case I need that ability.  I then glued square bar to the bottom of the hull around the nuts and (not pictured) added plastic sheet to the top to keep them from falling when I turned the hull upside-down.  I glued everything loose that way if I was off a little bit, I could move the nuts and still attach the finnials to the hull.  A website, Grand Brass, provided me with the finnials, and associated hardware. 1-03
This is the radar that is one the aft mast.  There are 6 parts to the array.  Because of their fine detail, one of my most favorite parts of a model ship are the radar arrays. 1-05
To help with the details I met a few new folks from here.  Mike Czibovic provided me with some resin RHIB's, SH-60's, 25mm bushmasters, plus a hole bunch of domes.  I couldn't have done these 3 ships without his help.  Starfighter Decals did my custom decals again.  About the only thing that changed on the decals were the battle E's and the addition of the motto flag.  1-07
One detail I scratch built are the Nulkas.  I was given the dimensions and scrounged around for the right plastic.  I found some plastic square bar that I glued side by side.  Then I used plastic sheet for the triangles.  For stability and a better gluing surface I added a "base".  There are 5 parts to each one.  Had I known what the future held, I would've cast about 30 of 'em. 1-09
The flags were a complete new thing for me.  I used the foil wrapper from a Herseys kiss to give the flags their rigidity to be able to be "molded" like they were flapping in the wind.  One thing I learned, fly string can be like a saw through a decal. 1-11
This is a detail shot of the area above the hanger deck.  With a dime for size comparison. 1-13
I decided that since this was my second LKE, and there might be more, each one would have its own special detail, that I wouldn't duplicate, ever.  This one's is the Captain's chairs.  I scratch built them out of plastic for the seat and back, and brass for the arms. 1-14
My method to installing the flag strings - make the tails REALLY long and suspend them with tools.  I could now position it correctly and not have it go all willy nilly.  After the CA dried, I trimmed the string to length. 1-15
One of the smallest details I worked on was the .50 cals.  There were 4 itsy, bitsy parts to each one....   I'm still having nightmares... 1-16
Also a new skill, the base.  I was sent some of the ships challenge coins to be placed on the base.  I was able to get the exact drill bit size to allow me to inset them into the wood.  My boss is a hobby woodworker, so it was off to his house to make the base. One of the requests was to place the ship on Koa wood.  This wood is native to Hawaii, so, of course, I couldn't just go out and get a stick.  I found an "importer" of it, Cook Woods,  1-17
This is the flag provided by David Hill.  Also, I think, a great photo looking up from "sea level". 1-18
Another aftermarket I used was real, live brass props from G-Force.  After a bit of polish, they shined up oh so nice. 1-18
Here is a finished shot of the midships area.  You can see the finished nulkas, flags, battle e's.  One detail that I practically missed.  The walkway below the nulkas.  One the kit, it went all the way to the fwd bulkhead.  After I got this far, I realized on the LKE, it did not.  I performed a bit of surgery, and about screwed it all up, but I think it came out ok. 1-19
A detailed shot of the flags and bridge area.  Another detail I did, was cut out the bridge windows.  1-20
Shipping this thing was also a new experience.  It didn't make it to Hawaii in one piece.  Fortunately, the Plexiglas cover took most of the damage.  The only thing lost off the ship was 1 .50 cal gun and an antenna off the fore mast.  A few of the nets were knocked off, but they were recovered and reinstalled.

On a coolness factor.....this ship has been residing in the Pentagon.

Chapter #2
#2 - After #1 LKE was delivered and presented, the XO wanted one.  So.... off to the shipyards it was.  I started this one almost a year after the #1 was delivered.  I made an order to Mike again, to get a load of goodies.  Starfighter Decals made me another set of decals, and another board for the base was provided from Cook Woods.

By now, I can almost build the LKE while in a comma.  Everything, including processes, was pretty much duplicated.  This was the 2nd full hull, but the 3rd over-all LKE.  The build went off without much of a hitch.  One comment on the kit though.  The bridge area did not want to go together square.... it fought me the whole time


One thing that was slightly different on each LKE was the hanger.  This is the #2 hanger.  I think I got a bit more accurate each time. 2-01
Because of the way the superstructure when together, lots of clamps were needed to hold everything straight and square to the hull.  On all the LKE's in this article, I popped the hull on all three.  But I'd rather fix that than have the superstructure not glued on right. 2-02
One detail not on the model is the NIXIE sensor.  To make this, I borrowed a rivet from my wife's scrapbooking supplies.  The rivet gave me that smooth curved opening like the NIXIE has.  All I did was drill a hole in the back of the transom, and glued in the rivet.  I knew this was missing on the original LKE I had built, but at the time, I wasn't able to come up with a suitable item for the hole. 2-03
On all three LKE's, I painted the red below the waterline first.  After I taped for the boot line, I covered the rest of the ship in tissue type paper to keep the overspray from getting up there. 2-04
After the red was blown, the ship remasked for the neutral grey on the top, and everything dried for a few days, I masked for the boot line.  Since there were "things" along the water line, I couldn't get a clean mask job.  I basically drybrushed the black, no runs, and no bleeding. 2-05
This is the area on top of the bridge, before the railings had been installed. 2-06
The XO wanted for his special detail, a drain hose off the port side of the 0 level.  It was always a sore point of his, and he wanted to be able to see it at all times.  I used a paperclip painted in the hull color.  In my questioning of the XO, he wanted his LKE to look just like the captains.  I was able to get a few more details corrected due to the men looking at the last model and reporting back. 2-07
The finished aft transom.  2-09
The finished hanger area complete with custom domes.  One mistake I know I made, and realized after I shipped, is the wrong color on the hanger floor. 2-11
Starboard midships area.  Due to the pics that I had, the kits boat parts are totally wrong for the LKE.  I scratched the crane for the boat.  The RHIB is one of the resin ones that I got from Mike. 2-12
This is one of my scratched NULKA and some chaff launchers. 2-13
I did make on error that I did catch, I glued one flag line upside down.  Of course, I discovered this right after I trimmed the lines to fit.  Fixing that was a 2 hr ordeal, but it was fixed. 2-15
Port side of the superstructure.  There is the other custom dome.  All the largest domes were made from ink pen caps and plastic jewelry beads. 2-16
One detail that had to make all 3 ships was the golden anchors.  It is an award given to a ship, I believe for reenlistment.  You can also see the 1 & 2 position .50 cals. 2-17
A pic of the aft end of the mostly completed ship.  2-19
Details of the top of the midships area. 2-20
Details from the top of the bridge area.  You can see the starboard flag line hasn't been found or fixed yet.  I think it was this pic that clued me in. 2-22
Top of the fwd area.  The anchor chains are real, live chain that is pre-blackened.  One of my favorite details. 2-23
The finished product, minus the cover.  2-25
I learned a few lessons on shipping, and this one made it to the destination, without issue.  Since he was still serving aboard the LKE, he had me ship the ship to his neighbors house.
Chapter #3
#3, just like #2, when the captain received his LKE, the CSO placed an order. I knew he would want one, he was my contact when I built he captains. Im not sure, but I think I did build this LKE in a comma. It seems like I've cornered the market on Lake Erie's.
When I placed my orders for #2 LKE, I doubled everything, since I knew I had another to do. However, this basic ship model was the Italeri version of the Tico flight II class. I couldn't find the Dragon version. Never again.... The plastic was all different, much harder. The fit and finish to every part was sub-par. I fought flashing and mis-matched halves the whole time. Had I made this one first... I might not have tried for the other 2. I was able to beat the ship into a great looking CG. And the bridge area.... much worse trying to get square than the Dragon kit.


Hanger #3.  It was usually the first thing I did to the kit. 3-01
The Italeri version (and 1 dragon version) only has 1 antenna near the fwd stacks.  I cut off the platform and made a larger platform to fit two antenna on.  I traced the previous kits platform to be a template and cut a piece of plastic to fit.  I then added supports to the underside.  Fortunately, the kit does have all 4 annteanas. 3-02
In all the pics I poured over, there seemed to be more "boxes" on this level than the kit had.  I could never seem get them right.  Third time is the charm, I think.  This time I really concentrated on getting the "boxes" correct.  Also present are the NULKAS and the chaff launchers. 3-04
Old Glory flappin' in the breeze. 3-05
Here are those pesky .50 cals again.  3-07
In addition to the coins on the base, he wanted SWO pins as well. Since it is a complicated pin, I didn't sink it into the base. I drilled holes where the post were and attached it that way. 3-08
I wasn't able to get out of him what kind of special detail to model, so... I decided to populate the ship. I placed 20 of the prepainted Eduard sailors on deck. I tried to put a few on every part of the ship to make it look more populated than it actually was. 3-09
The aft gun with its inhabitants. 3-10
Finished aft end with the 25mm bushmasters and inhabitants. 3-11
Behind the bridge all completed. 3-12
Fwd gun and VLS, and a few sailors. 3-14
Port midships. 3-18
Aft half of the finished base/ship, a great pic of the added base details. 3-20
Overhead shot of the complete package. 3-21
Looking at the bell and custom decal over the bell.  Its the ships motto.  Don't give up the ship. 3-23
This model shipped successfully to the DC area. And since then, I've had multiple inquiries about building a few more LKE's....... 

More of Douglas Conrady's work.
Updated 2012

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