Russian Cruiser Almaz

Combrig Models, 1/350th Scale, Resin

Reviewed by Devin Poore, January 2019

Commissioned into the Baltic Fleet in 1903, Almaz, a 2nd Class Cruiser, first saw action during the Russo Japanese War. Transferred to the Second Pacific Squadron, she participated in the disastrous Battle of Tsushima, where she was the only major Russian warship to survive and proceed onto Vladivostok after the battle. After the war she was repaired, upgraded, and served as an imperial yacht for a brief time. With the start of World War I, she was rebuilt as a seaplane tender. Caught up in the fervor of the Russian revolutions, Almaz's crew revolted in early 1918. Captured by opposing forces in September of 1918, she became a part of the White Fleet, eventually being captured in the port of Bizerte, Tunisia, when the French Government in Bizerte officially recognized the Soviet Union. Turned over to the Soviets, Almaz and the other quarantined ships, hard used and beyond reasonable repair, were eventually sold for scrap to a French firm in 1934.

Almaz is one of the more recent Combrig releases, continuing their tradition of unique gunboat kits in 1/350th scale. I found a few different sources for the ship's measurements, but most common is 365' 8", overall. In 1/350th scale that comes out to 12.5", with the model's length overall coming in at 12 3/8th inches. Close enough in my book.

The hull comes split, so that it may be built waterline or full. As can be seen in the first photo, the usual discrepancy in length that one normally finds on resin kits like this isn't there. They're nearly the exact same width and length, meaning that those who build full hull versions will have little filling and sanding to do. Chocks, bollards, skylights, and other small details are mostly very well rendered. I say mostly, as this is the first Combrig kit I've ever seen with casting issues. I'm not sure the cause, whether the master or the molding, but the bow and stern scroll artwork on my sample of the kit is low detail and muddied. As there is a porthole immediately above the scrollwork on the port side that has a bit of torn mold material embedded, I'm going to chock this up to my sample being a pull from a late-in-life mold. Another issue is that the lower hull has a noticeable texture to it, as if the part was sprayed with rattle can primer. This is minor, though, and should easily wet-sand smooth. Those two issues aside, with the previously mentioned small details, including the deck planking, all being of typical Combrig quality, the hull looks overall very good.
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An additional deck for the aft portion of the ship, stack bases, and the bridge with its associated wings, are cast as separate pieces. The large deck has skylight detail molded in, which, along with the deck plank detail, is extremely crisp, with no flash along the edges, or need to flush-sand the bottom before assembly. The bridge components and stack bases are cast on an extremely thin sheet of resin, so thin that it's translucent; the parts easily pop free. Detail on these parts, in the form of windows, louvers, and planking, is all crisp and well rendered.
The remainder of the kit's resin is made up of the ship's stacks, boats, and resin runners that include everything from small guns and anchors to vents and boat davits. Again, everything is extremely sharp, well molded, and nearly flash free. The stacks are hollow to about 1/4" depth. The boats are attached to casting blocks by thin gates, that look to be easy enough to remove. Vents are both cowling and mushroom, with the cowls being recessed enough that one can likely drill them to be hollow. Small caliber guns and anchors are very detailed. Other small items include winches and gun pedestals. Multiple boat davits are also rendered in resin, very thin yet warp-free. I'd recommend attaching them towards the end of the build, as they are numerous and prominent on this model, which makes them prime targets for being accidentally knocked off during construction.
A single sheet of brass contains the ship's railing and other fine detail. You'll find ladders, boat seats, gun shields, bow shield ornament, and other small pieces here. The majority of the sheet is a single-layer etch, but there are a few hatches and the pulleys on the davits that are relief etched. The brass is extremely thin, coming in at .2 mm, so caution is required while handling. 
Instructions are on ten pages, front and back, 8.5 X 11". The first two pages cover an overall drawing of the ship and a photo of all the components, with the remaining eight pages devoted to construction. Some care will be required in finding the correct parts on the resin runners called out in the subassembly instructions, as there are no part numbers either on parts or instructions. Full size images on page four has diameter and length call-outs for mast and flag staff rods that need to be and cut from brass or styrene rod. Also shown are short length's of wire/tubing that need to be cut, to be shafts for the boat davit actuator wheels. The diagram says to cut 38 of them, but I don't see that many being used in the instructions. Construction is broken down into assembly of the individual components, such as the bridge assembly, searchlight towers, and boat davits, which are then later attached to the hull assembly. The one caution I'd offer is that the lower hull isn't addressed until page nine of the instructions, but if one plans to build a full hull model, attaching the hull halves should be done before any other assembly.
Combrig continues to deliver some of the highest quality resin casting in the model warship field. While the Almaz does have what appears to be a slight defect in the bow scrollwork, and a bit of texture on the lower hull, those are the only two issues I could find with the quality of this kit. Those new to working with photo etched brass will want to be careful with the PE in the kit, as it's extremely thin. 

My one big critique continues to be the packaging of Combrig kits. There are a couple of the extremely fine resin boat davit arms in my sample that have the unsupported tips broken off. Easy enough to fix, but something that would be unnecessary if the resin runners could be sandwiched between cardboard.

This is another beautifully rendered kit of a unique subject. Fans of 1/350th scale gunboats, with some resin kit experience behind them, will be able to turn out a splendid model.

Thank you to Combrig for the review sample. 

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