Building the Heavy Cruiser Tone

Building Minekaze's 1/350 resin kit

by Martin J Quinn

Operational History
Laid down in 1934 as the next step in Japanese Cruiser design, the Tone and Chikuma were originally conceived as large light cruisers, with the same armament (6.1 inch guns) as were mounted on the Mogami-class.   Early on in construction, Japan abrogated the London Naval treaty and the Tone-class was completed as heavy cruisers with 8 inch guns.  Unlike the Mogami, which had her aircraft deck added after the damage she suffered at the Battle of Midway, the Tones were designed to acts as scouts and to carry a large complement of floatplanes.   This gave them their distinctive look with all four turrets forward of the superstructure and a large aircraft deck aft.
Tone served alongside Chikuma as part of the Cruiser Division 8 for most of her career.    As the war in the Pacific began, CruDiv 8 participated in the Pearl Harbor raid and the capture of Wake Island.    They also participated in the raid on Darwin, Australia and the sweep of the Java area in late February, 1942, when Tone helped sink the American destroyer USS Edsall (DD-219).    Again escorting the carriers, CruDiv 8 was part of the Japanese March 1942 raid into the Indian Ocean.  It was Tone's scout plane that found the British cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and Cornwall, which led to their destruction by Japanese carrier aircraft.    After the unsuccessful pursuit of Task Force 16 in the wake of the Doolittle Raid, Tone and Chikuma underwent a short refit at Maizuru.

Post-refit, CruDiv8 was part of Operation MI and the Battle of Midway, where Tone's scout planes played a crucial role in the battle.    A float plane that launched late found the American ships, but either didn't recognize or neglected to report that one of those ships was a carrier.    In a battle that is described in great detail elsewhere, the Japanese ended up losing four of their frontline carriers as well as their precious aircrews.  As the Japanese fleet retired from the Midway debacle, CruDiv 8 was dispatched to support the Aleutian Island operations, in anticipation of an American counter-attack that never came.

Tone next saw action as part of the Japanese response to the American invasion of Guadalcanal.   She and Chikuma escorted the carrier Ryujo during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24, 1942, escaping serious damage while Ryujo was sunk.    In mid-October, Tone and a destroyer were sent to search for the American fleet, which did not appear, north of the Santa Cruz Islands.   Later that month, on October 26th, her floatplanes spotted the American carrier Hornet during the Battle of Santa Cruz,  which resulted in the Hornet being sunk.

After conducting support missions and patrols in the Solomons, Tone returned to Japan for a refit in February, 1943.  During this time, her AA armament was upgraded slightly and radar was installed.    Tone was part of the force assembled for the abortive mission to repulse the American attack on the Aleutian Islands.   After ferrying troops and supplies to Rabaul, she was based out of Truk with other major units of the Imperial Navy.    From here the Japanese sailed to respond - in vain - to American carrier raids on Makin in September and the Marshall Islands in October.

After a refit at Kure in December, 1943 - during which Tone's AA fit was increased again - CruDiv 8 was disbanded. Tone and Chikuma were assigned to CruDiv 7 with the Kumano and Suzuya in January 1944.   In March, Tone participated in the infamous Indian Ocean raid, where she sunk the British freighter SS Behar and executed 72 prisoners on board in retaliation for sending a wireless raider report.

Tone was present for the Battle of the Philippine Sea, then returned to Japan for further upgrades to her AA and radar suites.    Returning to the fleet, she moved between the Philippines and Singapore before participating in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where she was damaged by US Navy carrier aircraft.   After escaping further harm, Tone made her way back to Japan for repairs and further AA and radar upgrade in November.   Due to the loss of Chikuma and Suzuya at Leyte Gulf, CruDiv 7 was disbanded and Tone was assigned to CruDiv 5 with the Kumano - who was soon sunk herself.

Tone spent the rest of the war moored near the Kure naval base.  With fuel at a premium and the American fleet running amok in the Pacific, there was no place for her to go.   Damaged by a carrier raid in March, 1945, Tone was finally sunk on July 24, 1945 by US carrier aircraft.   Her hulk was raised and scrapped postwar.

Cruisers of World War Two, MJ Whitley
Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War, Lacroix and Wells
Tabular Record of Movement (TROM), Combined
Building the Tone
I've done several build up reviews for ModelWarships, but this build was an unusual one for me.  Not because of the model itself, but because I inherited this model after it had already been started by someone else.  Back when Minekaze released this kit, Tim Dike had received a sample for the subject for both an in-box and build-up review.   The model was then given to someone to do a build up review.  Unfortunately, about 1/3 of the way through the build-up review project, the modeler who had started the Tone was unable to continue due to personal issues.  After some discussion, I was asked if I wanted to pick up the project and continue, partially because I had access to the model and the modeler, and also because I could start the project pretty quickly.   Since I have a closet full of models to build, I would have normally said no.   But, since this was such an unusual subject in 1/350, I agreed to take it on.  So, once I had finished building and writing some other pending reviews, I picked up the model and took stock of what I had.
I received a model that was about 30-35% done - though at first glance it looked like it was farther along.  The superstructure, smoke stack and turrets had all been attached, and the deck and vertical surfaces all painted with acrylic paint (to my dismay, since I normally paint with enamels).   None of the photo-etch parts or white metal parts had been painted, nor had the remaining resin parts.   Unfortunately, the person I had gotten the kit from didn't remember what brand or color he had done his painting with, so I was going to have to repaint everything he had done if I wanted all the parts to match (which seemed sort of important to me).

Before I went any further, I did some research.   I picked up the Gakken book on the Tone (which I was personally disappointed in) and read over the chapter on the Tone and Chikuma in Lacroix and Wells "Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War".   I also borrowed a set of 1/200 plans for the Tone to use as a further reference and printed some pictures of the built up kit from the web.    Finally, I turned to Ed Low's superb Japanese Warships in 3-D website for details on the bridge and other structures.

Some further research found that the Minekaze kit represents the Tone prior to December, 1941.   Other than receiving Jakes to replace her Type 95 Alf floatplanes, Tone was virtually unchanged from her launch, until 1943, when she received her first major alterations while undergoing refit.     Having always been fascinated with the Battle of Midway, I decided to model Tone as she appeared on the morning of June 4, 1942, when her difficulty in launching one of her scouts had disastrous consequences for the Kido Butai.  Tone had been repainted during a short yard period just before the Midway operation at the Maizuru Naval Arsenal, so she would be painted in Maizuru grey.

Once I had decided on the paint color, I took the remaining parts out of the box, washed everything in warm soapy water, then primed them.   Then,  I masked the deck and repainted the hull assembly with Model Master Acrylics Maizuru Grey.   I then painted all the primed parts the same color.   Once I unmasked the deck, I examined how much touch up painting there was to do, and prepared to finish my research and start construction.

While continuing to do some research, I got down to building by reviewing the instructions.   I'll say this right here because it will be a recurring theme in this review:  the weakest part of the kit are the instructions.   Frankly, they are lacking.  The Minekaze kit comes with a plan and profile drawing of the ship, in 1/350 scale.  It also comes with a parts list that is several pages long, two pages that show photo-copies of the parts (and their corresponding numbers), a sheet detailing the construction of the aircraft and finally a sheet with some drawing showing details of the bridge and crane.   While the profile and plan view does show were all the parts go, it would be much better if there was, at minimum, an exploded view drawing.

Now ready to start, I laid everything out on my work table and got ready to begin the actual building.  One thing that Minekaze has done - which is both a blessing and a curse - is to cast almost all of the deck fittings in white metal.  This avoids the unsightly and annoying holes caused by air bubbles during the casting process.  It also means there are a lot more white metal parts to add!  While a bit tedious, I think it was a good idea - I prefer the tedium that comes from adding white metal parts than the tedium from filling and sanding malformed parts on the model.    Each deck fitting either has a small outline on the deck to mark it's spot, or has a small hole for the part.   I found I needed to use a small drill bit to widen and deepen the holes to get the ventilators to fit properly.

As I said earlier, the directions are lacking, but if you study them carefully, you should be able to figure them out.   Starting at the bow, I started adding white metal parts, working my way aft.   Each time I added a part, I used a highlighter to mark off that part on the profile/plan view.  This way I knew it was done and wouldn't waste time looking over the same part numbers again and again.   After I had gotten the white metal parts added to the deck, I began adding the rest of the resin parts to the kit, starting with the superstructure.   My predecessor had build the majority of the bridge, but had left off some platforms and gun directors.  I added these, then worked my way aft, adding deckhouses, gun directors and vents as I went.    As with the white metal parts, most of the resin parts have a small outline drawn on the deck to help you place them in the correct place.   The vents on either side of the funnel also had a small notch cut into them.   The notch matched a molded on pipe on the funnel, so if the pipe to fit into the notch perfectly, you had the vent on the wrong side of the ship.   I thought this was a good touch to help the modeler.

Three of the gun directors had rangefinders.  Each rangefinder had to be cut in two, then inserted into the hole already cast into the sides of the directors.   This took some test fitting to make sure they rangefinder protruded the same length from each side - the drill came in handy again to help deepen holes when needed.  With the majority of the resin parts on, I added the searchlight towers on either side of the funnel.   Here the directions really let you down, I needed to use all the research materials at my disposal to figure out how the searchlight towers were mounted.   In the end, the photo-etch towers are a millimeter or so short - I ended up having to glue them to the top of a deckhouse to keep them straight.
I now glued the lookout binoculars (boy, were there are lot of them!) onto the bridge.   I realized the the original builder had omitted the compass and some lookout positions inside the bridge (which is visible through the photo-etch windows).   Instead of ripping the bridge apart, I decided to leave them out.

At this point, the majority of the resin parts were on, as were most of the white metal parts, so I started reviewing the photo-etch sheet, deciding to build the mainmast first.   Again - the directions are of limited help here.   Pictures of the real ship, of models and the 1/200 plans helped me out.    The bracing on the mainmast is a photo-etch part, which I bend into a triangle shape.  I added this to the resin derrick, then a white metal part which represented the back leg of the mainmast.   Using some the brass rod that was included in the kit, I made the other legs of the tripod.  The deck has holes to locate the mainmast legs in, while the photo-etch has notches in the corners to locate the brass rod in, which was a huge help in getting everything to stay together (that along with super glue and accelerator!)  Once the legs and bracing were in, it was time to add the white metal top of the mainmast.   The tricky part was getting all three legs to be the same height.  After a few attempts at getting all three legs to match, I realized all I was doing was making the mainmast shorter and shorter.   I was finally able to get the brass rod legs to be the same height, and used a small shim of plastic card on the bottom of the mainmast top to get that to meet the white metal leg.

With the mainmast done, I elected to work on the foremast.    Again - the directions were an issue.   Before the foremast could be put on, a several pieces of photo-etch bracing, several sets of photo-etch stairs and some brass rod supports had to be added to the back of the bridge.   Even though the directions were vague, I was able to figure out the configuration using the plans and the aforementioned Ed Low's website.   I also realized that a section of the tripod legs that help up the main battery director were missing.   Luckily, I was able to add these without having to rip the bridge apart.

After some careful dry-fitting and testing, the largest piece of the photo-etching was added to the bridge.   I then added the brass rod to either side of the bracing, then worked on adding the additional bracing and photo-etching to the port side.   Unfortunately, the brass bracing for the port side doesn't fit properly, if you fit the brass rod as per the ships plans.   I took small piece of scrap brass, cut it to shape and added it to bridge the gap between the photo-etch part and the brass support rod.

I ran into similar problems with the foremast.   In my opinion, there should have been a separate drawing for the foremast, but I had to rely strictly on the profile view.   As a result, I had difficulty with this part of the build.  Two times I had the mast about 80% done, only to find I had to rip it apart and start again.   It took me several attempt to finish it, and in the end, it still wasn't quite right.   I also had to replace the yardarm (which was white metal) with brass rod, as the white metal part was deformed and too "soft" to fix.

With the masts (thankfully) done, I turned to the loads of photo-etching that graced the rest of the midships section.   There were numerous storage bins or crates on both sides of the funnel that carried lumber, spare floats and spare wings for the scout planes (unfortunately I put the aft baskets upside down).  Also included were photo-etch parts for the grills on the side of the heavy AA gun shields, as well as the metal stops that prevented the AA guns from firing into the ship.  Once this was done, I attempted to use the very fine photo-etched hand rails that go around the funnel, but after mangling a few pieces, elected to keep my sanity and leave them off.

Next step was to add the white metal and photo-etch AA guns.  Tone carried six sets of these up through 1943.   As we cue the broken record, you can repeat after me:  "The instructions were vague".   I was able to figure it out using some drawing that went with the plans I had borrowed.   Once I was able to get the guns together, I glued them in place.

With the AA guns done, I added the resin and photo-etch ramp that connected the lower and upper flight decks on aft portion of the ship.   This was pretty easy, although the resin part looked to be a little short.   I also added photo-etch inclined stairs on either side of the ramp.

With the ramp in place, I assembled the torpedo tubes. Tone had twelve tubes two sets of three on either side of the ship.  Assembly was straight forward, again helped by drawings.  Unfortunately, the prior builder had assembled the ship to the point where I was unable to fit the forward most tubes into the ship.   I elected to glue the aft pair in place, and then covered the openings for the forward pair with Kyrstal Clear.  Once the ship was ready for final weathering, I planned to paint them a light color to simulate canvas covers.

Now it was time to get into the serious photo-etch: the crane and the catapults.   As I studied the plans and got ready to move forward, I realized that some photo-etch parts for the crane should have gone on BEFORE the mainmast was assembled to the derrick.   Since this wasn't possible, I cut the parts - which represented the gear-wheel to turn the crane - in two, glued them together around the derrick, then began to work on the crane.

The crane consisted of two large pieces of photo-etched brass, then numerous smaller pieces.  The two main pieces formed the arm of the crane - one part being the outside and the other being the lattice structure on the inside.   I folded the interior piece - which required multiple folds - and tried attaching it to the outside part.  I found it was better to cut the outside part in two pieces instead of trying to wrap it around the lattice part - so that is what I did.

To attached the crane to the derrick, there were two very small u-shaped parts that had to be added to the photo-etched wheel.  The ends of the crane sit in these parts, which on the real ship allowed the crane to move it's neck up and down.   I attached the crane to these parts, then super-glued them to the geared wheel.   However, after consulting the plans some more, I realized that the instructions had really let me down.   The geared wheel should have been put on before the derrick was put on, AND in a different spot.   So, off came the crane, off came the geared wheel, out went my sanity.   I was able to get the wheel to lay flat enough on the main deck to then re-glue the crane onto the ship.   Once this madness was complete, I added the pulleys to the derrick and to the crane, but decided to leave the rigging until the end (so I could do touch up painting first).

With the cranes complete, I moved onto the catapults.   The catapults actually had a small secondary drawing on a supplemental instruction page, so they went together fairly straightforward.   A white metal part fits onto the bottom of the photo etch catapult, which is then folded.   Then, all the flywheels and smaller parts are added as separate pieces (see picture below).   Time intensive, but worth the effort once done.

Ok...catapults, cranes, searchlight towers and the masts were done.   Looking around, it was time to tackle the funnel caps.   I find these particularly bothersome.   But, using a rounded end of a tool and making a few strategic snips, I was able to bend them into shape and glue them on.

The cable reels follow the rest of the photo-etch parts:  they consist of multiple pieces.    Once I had managed to snip them off the sprue, I folded them, added plastic rod and glued on the reels on either end, then attached them to the ship.  This was one place where the instructions were very clear.   At this point, the main photo-etching was done, so I moved onto adding railings.   The railings that come with the kit are of the "individual stanchion type.  The modeler I had inherited the kit from had included a set of Tom's ModelWorks 1/350 generic 2-bar railings.  I elected to follow his lead and use these instead of the kit supplied railings.   I started with the forward superstructure and worked my way backwards, until everything above the main deck was railed.

Before adding the railings to the main deck, I wanted to add the photo-etch boat cradles and ships boats to the models.   The cradles are relief etched parts which are supposed to be folded in half, so you get the etching on both sides.   After repeated attempts to fold the cradles, I found I was unable to do so, and decided to use plastic strip instead (I found it interesting the Minekaze included double the number of cradles required in the kit).    Using the photo-etch cradles as a guide, I outlined the area to be cut out on the plastic strip, then carved them with an hobby knife.    I made the appropriate number of cradles and glued them to the deck.  Once they were dry, I painted them then added the ships boats.

Now that the boats were done, the model was "basically" finished.   As I had gone along, I had highlighted completed parts on the instructions.  I went back through the 'instructions' and checked to see if I had missed anything.   I added the photo-etch leadsman's platforms, the torpedo cranes, the boat davits and pulleys for the foremost pair of boats and some additional railing on a small platform on the foremast that the instructions left vague.    The kit doesn't include the jackstaffs, so I added these from brass rod.    As an additional step, I cut some plastic sheet into small pieces and added them to the main turrets to help build up the blast bags.    The blast bags were then made out of acrylic gel medium.

With the blast bags done, the model itself was complete.  The only thing remaining were the floatplanes.   Since I had decided to build the Tone as circa Midway, I had pirated a Jake from a Tamiya Musashi kit.   I planned to build one Jake and two Pete's - which were included with the kit.   But, since I had read that none of Tone's floatplanes had survived the Midway operations, I decided my Tone would - for now - represent Tone in the late afternoon of June 4, 1942, sans floatplanes.     I sprayed a few thin coats of future on the model, then lightly weathered it with oils.   A few thin coats of flat and some very light dry-brushing were followed by finishing the "water".
Minekaze filled a void in the 1/350 ship line when it released the Japanese Heavy Cruiser Tone.  Even though Yankee ModelWorks has since released a kit of the Tone, that model is a 1944 version, while Minekaze's version is a pre-1943 model.   On the plus side, the model is decently cast and appears to be an accurate representation of Tone before her mid-war AA upgrade.   Even with the poor instructions, the majority of the kit went together fairly well and comes with an extensive set of photo-etch.  On the "con" side are two important things.  The first is the price.   This kit retails for over $400.  While Tone was a fairly large ship, that price is more than some resin battleships.   The second and biggest "con" is the instructions - they are totally inadequate for a model of this size and price.   At the end of the build, I had a myriad of photo-etched pieces and an assortment of smaller white metal pieces left - the instructions should have accounted for these, which didn't appear to be "extras". 
This model certainly challenged and expanded my modeling skills, and I certainly enjoyed building it.  However, due to the "cons", I can only recommend this kit to experienced builders - and then only those with a very good set of references handy. 

So, without any further babbling, here are some pictures of my finished Minekaze 1/350 Imperial Japanese Heavy Cruiser Tone, sometime on the afternoon of June 4, 1942...