|A little history|
SMS (His Majesty´s Ship) Zaehringen belonged to the five-strong Wittelsbach class of the imperial german navy. Named after german noble houses, the Wittelsbachs were designed and built when Germany had not yet fully entered the naval arms race and were markedly inferior to their british contemporaries. They soon were considered outdated and fit not even for secondary roles. Their weak primary and strong secondary armament were fully against the trend towards the all-big-gun ship.
Hence she did not participate actively in WW 1, being used as a training ship in port. After the war she belonged to the outdated units left to the new german navy, proving soon to be more of a liability than an asset and was stricken from the list. She escaped the scrapper´s torch and was converted to a radio-controlled target ship in 1927, without armament and most superstructure and with new machinery. In this role, she served for 17 years until sunk on 18 December, 1944 by RAF bombers at Gdingen harbour, which is now Gdynia in Poland. Raised by the germans, she was scuttled to block Gdingen´s harbour on 26 March, 1945. Her remains were broken up 1949-50.
I´ve always been fascinated by pre-dreadnought warships, and asked for a kit of the Wittelsbach class once too often, unaware that it was available as a resin kit already. Martin Kohring of modellversium. de has been so kind to procure the kit at a show for me, and there it was, my first resin kit to build. My kit preview (in german) is to be found at Modellversium.de
References used were the rather unhelpful booklet "Vom Original zum
Modell" by Koop and Schmolke, "Die Schiffe der deutschen Flotten 1848-1945"
von Hans Jürgen Hansen, plus Internetsites like bobhenneman.info/pdhome.htm
I also asked fellow modelers Jim Baumann and Guido Hopp as to the appropriate
colours, thank you guys!
|I started cleanup of all the resin parts one afternoon,
using various burs and discs in a dremel, X-ACTO knife, wet sanding paper
and a razor saw. I used a face mask. That process was completed in one
afternoon, and I just noted the following issues:
|The kit instruction is a rather basic hand-drawn exploded
view, but usable. I could quickly determine what went where. I also saw
that some extra parts were present, especially boats, and you can always
I sanded the upper deck level as well as I could to achieve a good fit, and then started painting. had decided to paint all vertical surfaces in a light grey, using WEM´s RN 03. The wooden decks were painted in MM enamels, using various tan and wood shades. The upper decks were probably coated with linoleum, so they were painted WEM RN 24 Corticene. Masking was done using Tamiya tape.
Early on, I made the water base. I had figured out it would be best doing this with no fiddly stuff attached to the hull. After experimenting with silicone (in modeling!), I wanted to give plaster a try, so I used a picture frame, masked it with Tamiya tape and poured plaster into it. During setting, I placed the model and sculpted the waves and the wake using a wooden coffee stirrer and toothpicks. That took some time yet got ever better the more the plaster set. After setting, I did some more carving and sculpting using a dental sculpting instrument. My first attempt at painting the base using watercolours looked great but failed when I added Future - the watercolour chipped in a grand style. I then redid the paintjob using acrylics in green, white and blues from the hardware supermarket, and that went great. I tried to achieve a good shading and a lively result, as without silicone you haven´t got the illusion of depth. Then I added a lot of layers of Future and, after drying, drybrushed the wavetops and the wake. I was pretty satisfied with the result.
Then I could start assembling. I glued the upper deck with CA, keeping it in place with clamps. Small gaps were filled with Mr Surfacer and painted over. At this point I also worked on the other subassemblies such as bridges, charthouse, funnels, military masts and boats. For detailing, I used WEM´s very helpful PE set for the german-built russian cruiser Askold. Some additonal railings were taken from WEM´s 1:700 railing set.
|I modified the kit as follows:
|Finally everything could be assembled, and I did my weathering. Having a rather new ship at peacetime service, I did just a restrained weathering, trying to work out the shapes and angles and to make the overall grey scheme a bit more lively. Deck panel lines were highlighted with pencil lead, and the ship was washed gently with black watercolor. I softened the result using a glass fibre pen. Rust was only used around the anchors. A heavier wash was used on the boats to accentuate the contrast between the thwarts and the area between them.|
After attaching the railings I revisited the model and did some touchups. A final flat coat sealed the model.
My personal bugbear is rigging. I used black stretched sprue, glued with styrene cement and tautened with a heated dental waxing instrument. In spite of all caution, the masts turned out to be so bendable still that any slightest touch tore apart all previous lines. A situation that might have easily bordered to a tantrum. To me, doing such work is like shaving a balloon using a chainsaw. Hence I gave up at some point at about one third the original rigging. My deepest reverence to all those who can master that art.
In the meantime, rigging and modeling wizard Jim Baumann has given me the hint to use steel wire from wire brushes only, as it is so much more rigid than brass or ordinary steel wire, and I pass this hint to you.
Finally I took my pictures and thought about my conclusions from this project. I was surprised at how fast (a little under three weeks) I had completed the model, building a P-47 and completing a 1:400 battleship in between - and how relatively straightforward things had proceeded. I´ve lost my reservations towards resin now and am looking forward to the next project.
If I consider the priceof the kit, it´s pretty expensive, especially
as it comes without PE or wire for the masts. And even more so, if you
relate the price tag to the number of hours I spent building it (and was
supposed to have fun with it - which I did). But let´s face the fact:
Our hobby, when esoteric subjects in resin are considered, is the ultimate
niche market, and I´d be surprised if the production run of such
a kit were higher than a few hundred. And given the work it takes to make
masters and mold the parts, especially in a country like mine, the price
Hence I´m glad I do have a nice model of one of the Kaiser´s ships of the line on my shelf now.
|The Ships of Frank Spahr|