USCG Bertholf WMSL-750

Kit Number 350006B
Black Cat Models. 1/350th scale. Resin
Reviewed by Devin Poore, April 2020

Launched in 2006, Bertholf is part of the new Legend class of cutters, designed to replace the older Hamilton class ships. At 418 feet, the Legend class are the second longest ships in the Coast Guard inventory, following the research icebreaker Healy. Typical of the Coast Guard's broad mission, the Legend class are designed for environmental protection, search and rescue, coastal and port security, counter terrorism, drug interdiction and law enforcement. Their defensive weapons also allow them to act in a military capacity in medium threat environments. The ships carry a compliment of two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, with hangar space for each, as well as a rear boat well for rapid launch and recovery of the ship's RHIB boats. Built to be versatile, the ships can be mission-modified as necessary, be it to upgrade underwater systems to detect submarines or harbor mines, or to enhance anti-air capabilities with increased sensors and weapons.

Bertholf has been in commission since 2008, based out of Alameda, California. Her duties have seen her perform typical Coast Guard activities, such as search and rescue, and law enforcement patrols, one of which lead to the capture a semi-submersible narco-submarine in 2016. She has also participated in joint training exercises with the US Navy, demonstrating the ship's ability to cooperate with naval units in combat situations.

First off, thank you to Martin Quinn for the photos of the kit box and the resin hull. He took those before passing along the kit for me to review. Much appreciated.

The hull is cast as a single piece of resin. The kit is available in two versions, one is waterline, the other full hull; depending on which you buy, you get a one-piece waterline hull or full hull, respectively. A nice feature for those building waterline that don't want to have to shave off a ton of resin. The hull is cleanly cast and well detailed. Hatches and piping are sharp, as are details on the helo hangar doors and boat well ramp. The desk is festooned with recesses for placement of the resin details, which should help immensely with their location. The only overpour or flash noticeable are a slight protrusion at the resin pour and vent locations on the bottom of the hull -easily sanded smooth and unseen on the finished model -- and some fine flash under the bridge wings and platforms just aft of the wings. That small amount of flash is due to the undercuts, and is very fine and easily removed. Speaking of undercuts, it's amazing how many there are on the kit, and how they all exhibit great detail and no deformation or damage. Very nicely done. One will be needed to drill out the line fairleads, anchor hawse, and other small details, but that's a small price to pay for such a cleanly cast piece. The only "it would've been nice" I can come up with is that having the bride open for detailing and clear windows would be a nice touch, but that would necessitate a separate part, and as such, I think having everything as one piece is a nice compromise.

The Legend class cutters are stated via various online sources to have an overall length of 418', which equates to 14.3" in 1/350th scale. The kit's hull measures out at just a hair over 14 1/4", or 14.25", which is close enough for me.

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Black Cat Models are known for their high quality printed resin accessories, and this kit contains a lot of them. Comm and sat antenna domes, as well as a multitude of other small parts, are included on their support structure. Other small details such as whip antennas, cable reels, chaff launcher, and a plethora of hand valves, fire stations, and other deck clutter, are extremely well defined, and will greatly add to the visual chatter of the finished model, far more so than if these pieces had been cast in place on the hull.

Major components are also included with the prints: The main gun mount and its barrel are clean and show a bare minimum of print artifacts. The main mast is also a print, with the horizontal platforms printed in place, removing the need to align separate PE or resin parts. While not used in this specific kit, the ship's propellers are also included. Other details such as davits and the beam structure for the stern boat ramp look to be well detailed and solid, one-piece prints, that will remove a lot of fiddly alignment work during assembly.

As per usual, all of these pieces are fixed with double-sided tape inside plastic blisters, so there was no breakage to any of these parts during shipping. 

Cast resin components make up a large portion of the kit. The most recognizable of these are the helicopter, and the RHIBs (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat). Each of these are cast bubble-free, mounted on their casting blocks with thin attachment points that should remove easily. Also included in resin is an additional CIWS gun assembly, a counterpart to the printed option, which allows the user to choose whichever they wish (the printed parts look much better in my opinion). 

The main mast platform is a cast resin part as well, slotted to fit easily onto the top of the printed mast assembly. Many more radar, satellite, and communication domes are also included. Small detail parts include mooring bitts, firehoses, capstans, breakwaters, ventilation ducts, anti-flam lockers, and various other small items that I don't recognize (but that are called out clearly on the instructions). In the same class as the above-mentioned propellers, the prop strut supports and rudders, not used in this build, are included and look quite nice. 

If there's one issue I have with this kit, it's the fact that all of these cast resin pieces were packed in a single plastic bag. A lot of resin manufacturers do this, and I know it's an ease and cost saving measure, but it does nothing to protect the parts. Maybe 10% of the items have broken free of their casting blocks, to bounce around loose in the bag. While I don't believe this caused any damage -- a closer inspection will be necessary to tell for sure -- what it does do is negate the very nice feature of the casting gates displaying the part numbers. And, yes, it'll be possible to go through the parts list in the instructions to figure how which parts are which, but it'd be nice to see these resin parts mounted on double-sided tape, in the same way as the printed parts, to aid in identification and to reduce the chance of breakage.

An extensive sheet of brass details is included with the kit. It's a small sheet, at 4" x 6", but it packs a lot of detail. Here you find your typical lifelines and ladders. All of the ventilation and grating is provided in brass, to fit into the existing recesses in the resin hull. Various platform bases are also included, as well as helo deck safety netting. The detail pieces required to finish the boats and helo are also included. The overall thickness of the brass sheet is only .006", or .15mm, so extra care will be required while cutting and applying the thin pieces. In addition to the main sheet of brass, there's a smaller sheet of only 1/2" x 3" that contains replacements for re-designed parts; the instructions call these out clearly to indicate which items they replace.

The other brass in the kit comes in the form of turned accessories from Master. Various whip antennas and the top most portion of the mast assembly are all extremely well defined and will give a bit more sturdiness beyond what cast or printed resin components are capable of.

(Apologies for the lack of more detailed photos in this section. My camera just didn't want to focus on the shiny brass during the photo session.)

Decals include the helo deck markings, as well as Coast Guard insignias, hull numbers, hull draft markings, etc. Insignia for the helo are also included, as well as the ship's flag and name. I would have liked to see additional names and hull numbers, to build other versions of the class, but I'm not familiar enough with these ships (yet) to know if that's a simple out-of-the-box modification to get other vessels. I assume we'll see those other ships in upcoming releases.

The instructions are very nice, 24 pages, double-sided, and in full color. A full parts breakdown is given, with a 3D rendering of each piece and the number of each needed for the build. The more complicated, strut-heavy, printed parts are shown in two colors: magenta for the actual part, and dark gray for the support material that needs to be removed. Very helpful. 

Actual construction is depicted in close-up renderings, the parts color-coded (printed parts in magenta, resin-cast parts in cyan, sheet brass in orange, turned brass in gold), depicting the exact placement of each piece. The final pages of the manual are color renderings of the ship in profile from port, starboard, fore, and aft, along with an overhead plan. They show decal placement, and painting guidelines. Most of the colors are simply listed as "red, black, yellow, etc.", requiring the modeler to make their own choices. The dark gray of the decks is called out via a Federal Standard number, which is helpful. The red and blue of the main hull stripe, however, is called out by PMS colors (Pantone), which may be tricky for some modelers to duplicate.

Black Cat's USCGC Bertholf kit is a thing of beauty. It's one of those kits that looks good as components just sitting in the box. There are print artifacts on some of the 3D printed parts, but they are so fine that once covered in primer and paint, they won't be visible to the naked eye. Time will be required to sort out the resin parts that broke off of their numbered casting blocks, but that won't be a huge task. Between the cast resin and printed resin, there appears to be very little cleanup required before construction can commence. That, along with the ingenious way the hull is cast as a single piece, and the clever multi-media mast assembly, makes me think this kit will build much quicker than a similar sized styrene model.

It's a lovely kit of a unique subject. Buy one and build it. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Black Cat Models for the review sample.