Years ago I left the modeling community because I had only a few choices of cruisers to build. I returned just in time to learn of Classic Warships then new USS Helena. I've had this kit for two years and it is such a great kit that I didn't want to ruin it on my first attempt at building a resin kit. So I parked it and built some other kits that were of lesser quality and "expendable" if I messed up. I've been told that you get better as you build, it's true. Well I finally felt comfortable enough to take on this kit, and I'm glad I saved the best for last.
Right out of the box this kit builds into a great model. Add a little aftermarket PE and some of the little details and we have a great little model that you can be proud of. There is already an "in the box review" on this kit over on the Warship site, so I wont get into what's in the box. Instead lets look at some ways that we can really dress this kit up. Before you begin construction I recommend getting a set of plans from the Floating Drydock reviewed last month in the books and plans section.
To build this kit I recommend getting Tom's ModelWorks #719 US Light Cruiser set for Honolulu/Cleveland Class for the searchlight platform and misc. platform railings. I used Gold Medal Models 1/700 Cruiser Destroyer Set for the outer railings and catapults. After receiving my copy of Model Ship Journal Magazine and seeing the close-ups of Don Preul's beautiful 1/192 scale model of the USS Helena, I realized that there were a lot of details that could be added to this kit. I began by drilling out the various portholes and adding the railing to the superstructure as it was built up. The Mark 3 radar is mounted using a frame cut from leftover PE sets on the Mk 34 director. For the Mk 4 radar I used the Mk 22 radar cut from the Gold Medal set listed above and folded the bracket to simulate the hanging effect of the Mk 33 director. Both PE sets include funnel guards but I replaced them with new sturdier ones cut from leftover 1/350 PE sets.
The mast was fabricated from brass rod using the dimensions listed in the instructions. They looked a little bare so I added ladders and brackets for the fighting lights and miscellaneous equipment. A platform around the funnels was constructed by cutting 1/350 scale ladder stock in half and curving it around the funnel. The searchlight platform didn't include the two outer Mk 51 director platforms so I added them by attaching wire rods to the main lattice work and mounting a Skywave director to each end.
I fabricated new platforms under the front Mk 33 director by marking their location and cutting horizontal slots in the structure. The platforms were made out of sheet styrene formed in a "D" shape, with the railing formed around the curve. The flat end fits into the slots previously cut in the superstructure, making for a relatively painless installation. For the boat crane, cut the metal crane from its support and add a photo-etched one from one of the sets listed above.
Remove the splinter shields from the quad 40's as every photo I've seen shows the Helena without them. I used the 20 mm guns from the Skywave set, but I'm a little unhappy with them. They look a little large along side some of the finer details. Piping was made from various sizes of wire and brass rod. Rigging is done with Dai-Riki 9X Flyfishing line. It's very strong and doesn't look too out of scale compared to the other detail.
I chose to model the Helena as she faced the Japanese at Guadalcanal so I have attached the guns and directors trained out as I believe they were when she opened fire. Click the USS Helena link below to see the finish product mounted on its sea base and cover some of her History.
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