Hull Center Section: The center section of the hull is 36" long. Here it is glued up and left to sit overnight to dry. This was a three-part process. First, the registration pins were glued into the holes in one side and allowed to dry. Then the halves were glued together along the upper part of the hull and the end seams, with c-clamps used to hold them together. This was allowed to dry overnight. Then the bottom seam was glued together and strong cord used to clamp the seam. The instructions said to glue to bilge keels to each half before gluing the halves together, but since I knew I was going to have to use cord to clamp the halves I waited and added the bilge keels later, figuring they'd just break off if I added them first.
Bow Section, Interior: The locator pins are inserted in one side here. The interior has been painted black in the areas where the interior of the bow will be visible through hull openings. The boxed section provides an interior for the bow buoyancy tank flood ports.
Bow Section, Assembly: The two bow sections glued together. Unlike Revell's 1:72 Typ VIIc U-boat model, the torpedo tube shutters on the Gato model are fixed and can't be opened unless the modeler wants to cut them out and then build an interior to go inside them.
Bow Section, Preliminary Paint Job: The bow section has been painted. The black paint on the lower hull is temporarilly aligned with a weld line. This will later have to be matched to align with the lower edge of the superstructure immediately abaft this section.
Bow Planes Added: The bow planes have been added. These can be rigged in or out, as you prefer, and can be angled up and down to some degree.
Bow Planes Rigged Out: Same view, but with the bow planes rigged out. Curiously, the instructions tell the builder to paint the upper surface gray and the lower surface black, just the opposite of the normal scheme, which paints vertical surfaces gray and horizontal surfaces black. Pictures of Revell's prototype on their web site clearly show the free flood holes behind the planes as merely being recessed into the plastic and the recesses painted flat black. Evidently, at some time between the prototype and the finished production model they paid attention to the screaming model builders who were going to have to cut these out and molded the openings into the hull pieces.
They did not, however, open, or even mold in the ballast tank flood ports. An after-market manufacturer is planning a template to allow these to be cut out. This may turn out to be difficult or impossible on a completed model, so I suppose it's possible I'll end up building more than one of these.
Stern Section Glued Up: Unlike the bow planes, the stern planes don't move. The rudder is also fixed. The instructions held that the screws, shafts, and struts should be painted the same black as the lower hull. Going with natural steel color for the shafts and dull brass (which is about as close to bronze as you can find in a metallic paint) seems to work better.
Starboard Propeller Guard: One of the things I particularly like about this model is that the molding and fit is considerably better than on many others. The propeller guards are a good example, everything fitting together without the need for extensive trimming. Each of these is made in four pieces, the upper section being a single piece, and the three lower braces are glued on. Loosely fitting the pins into the hull when gluing on the braces insures correct alignment.
Stern: The prop guards installed and painted. This shot may be a touch too well lit. Most of the paints used are actually intended for painting HO and other model trains.
Bow Section Installed: This was actually an easy install, as the bow section fit snuggly enough to stay in position and immobile while the glue set. I have no idea why I went along with Revell on the anchor color, other than maybe a little contrast. I suppose I'll probably end up painting it gray before I'm done.
Hull Minus Superstructure: Installing the stern section was a little trickier. I ended up drilling a hole though both parts and pinning them together with a paperclip while the glue dried. The superstructure is made up of five pieces, forward, midships, stern, and two forward side pieces.
Superstructure installed: The superstructure is only partially painted at this point. The forward side sections are done, as is the stern and the deck. The conning tower fairwater isn't complete, but is merely loosely assembled and set in place to give a better idea of what this will look like when it's finished. It isn't obvious here, but the after superstructure didn't pull down properly, so I'll need to scrape some paint and glue it down tight.
Forward Port View: The loosely assembled fairwater is even more obvious here. The plan is to do a covered wagon cutdown, which will mean cutting out the sides of the upper fairwater, and then building a new forward bulwark and venturi shield. It will also mean having to scratch build at least the foward section of the bridge deck, as the one supplied includes the step for the higher cutdown. I'm still debating whether or not to open the doors at the rear of the fairwater, which were molded closed. Doing so would require scratch building at least the rear section of the conning tower, as well as the bulkhead closing off the after section where the inductions are located. Revell based their model very closely on Cobia, which has the 1943 fairwater design.
9 December 2006
Hull Glued Together and Painted: Everything is now glued down and the hull painted. This is an absolute monster now that this much is completed, 52" in length.
Port Side Exhausts: As much attention to detail as Revell put into this model, this is one thing they missed. Round holes were drilled in the superstructure skirting, then exhausts were built using styrene tubing wrapped with thin sheet styrene to simulate the flanges surrounding the pipes. These stuck out an inch or so while the glue dried, and then were cut off with a Xacto saw as close to the superstructure as practical and trimmed with an Xacto knife.
Forward Section, Overhead View: Looking down on the model, you can see the ladder going down the companionway to the escape chamber. The chamber is there below the hatch, but my camera isn't quite sophisticated enough to get a clear shot of it without special lighting equipment that I don't have. The squarish gray spots around the deck are recesses for additional parts, such as stanchions and cleats. Those don't go on until the conning tower fairwater is in place.
Stern view, Port Quarter: From astern, looking forward. This shot emphasizes a seam I need to paint. The flash brings it out, because it isn't that obvious in normal lighting.
Fairwater Ladder: The kit actually included these preformed brass wire ladder rungs. The holes are not drilled through, so the builder needs to drill them with a very fine drill. The kit includes shims to be placed between the rungs and the fairwater. You clamp a piece of flat stock over them, then glue them from behind.
Bridge Cowling: Revell got the name of the compass more or less right (it's really a gyro repeater, but "compass" seems to be close enough for general use). For some reason they call both the forward and after target bearing transmitters "gun aiming devices." They were obviously handy for aiming torpedoes, and were equally useful for taking navigational bearings (a pelorus, when you come right down to it, is a pelorus), but the gunnery officer with a pair of ordinary binoculars would be a lot more use when it came to passing corrections.
Clamping up the Fairwater: About the only real fault I can find with this model is that some of the parts don't match quite as exactly as I might like, so I end up gluing one seam or set of seams first, then going back a few hours later and closing up the remaining seam. The c-clamp may look a little extreme, but it's actually a pretty good way to do this, since you can control the pressure very accurately.
Railings: The railings around the cigarette deck are plastic moldings, and made in three pieces. Two side sections are glued to an after section. Only the stanchions for the forward railings come with the kit. Revell includes some very fine thread to use with these, but I used .0010 stainless steel wire, which gives a better look. The book on the stand in the background is Audie Murphy's memoir, To Hell and Back. It's still good.
Overhead View: The fairwater is just set in place on the deck. It's nearly done now, but still needs the two guns installed, a 20mm forward and a 40mm aft, along with some fittings, the lookout platform railings, and such. One of the stranger suggestions in the instructions is to paint the shears and both periscope shafts black. One can only wonder just how compatible paint would have been with the periscope packing glands.
15 December 2006
Port Side View: This thing turned into something of an obsession, but it was finally finished last night about an hour after I should have been asleep. Then again, I usually don't get to sleep right away in any case, so I probably didn't lose that much sleep.
Conning Tower Fairwater, Port Side: The railings along the edge of the superstructure are made using .015" music wire, instead of the waxed thread that came with the kit. On a real boat these would be made of steel cable.
Fairwater and 4"/50 Deck Gun: This view points up one of the areas where Revell's instructions aren't as good as they could be. The instructions tell you to glue down the fairwater (which they call a sail) and deck gun first, then install the railings. In fact, it's a lot easier to install the railings first, because the gun and fairwater get in the way when you're trying to paint the rails. The stanchions, obviously, can be painted before they're installed.
Overhead View: There was an "oops" here. I took the picture before I had cut off the end of the antenna lead, which can be seen hanging over the starboard cigarette deck rail. There is a lot of detail on this model, but if I was really obsessive I think I could have added even more. Scratch building TBTs with the proper handles might have been one option. The long wire radio antenna was one place where I did use the supplied thread, then painted it with "steel" paint. The SD antenna was made by bending .010" stainless wire into the proper shape, then repeatedly dipping the transverse section in black paint. The supplied part was brass wire and somewhat out of proportion.
Size Comparison: A good idea of the scale of this model vs. the usual kit can be seen by placing Revell's 1:220 scale "Lionfish" model in front of it. The Gato model is 52" in length, the other measures a mere 21". The paint job on the smaller model isn't particularly accurate. The Navy never used red bottom paint on fleet submarines, despite the fact that models are almost always shown that way.
Fairwater, Overhead View: Looking down on the bridge and cigarette deck. This fairwater design is an intermediate stage in the evolution of the Gato fairwater, and generally dates to about 1943. The original deep bridge cowling and the steering stand it contained have been removed and replaced by a 20mm gun platform, and the cigarette deck bulwark has been removed and, at this stage, the after end, originally tapering to a point, has been rounded and a 40mm gun installed. The bridge cowling still rises to the level of the lookout platform, and a raised platform is provided for the watchkeepers to stand on. Later the plating along the upper side of the fairwater would be cut away, exposing the internal support girders, and the bridge cowling lowered so that the watchkeepers stood at the same level as the cigarette deck. Frequently the SJ radar would be moved back to where the SD radar is in this setup, and a free-standing SD mast erected abaft the lookout platform. The main advantage to this modification was that it gave the watchkeepers more room to move around on the bridge.
Bridge Armament: The 20mm gun is mounted forward, the 40mm aft. The detail on these is pretty good compared to what you usually get. The paint scheme on the guns is typical, and follows the overall camouflage design, with light gray on vertical surfaces and black on horizontal surfaces. Seen from sea level the gray tends to blend into the sea horizon, while seen from overhead the black makes the boat look more or less like a whale, particularly when submerged in clear seas.
Compared to Typ VIIc U-boat: Another project, for which I'm still collecting aftermarket pieces, is Revell's Typ VIIc U-boat, also in 1:72 scale. This comparison with the port side of the hull shows just how much larger the American fleet boats were. The great size of the fleet boats, roughly the same length and tonnage as a World War I destroyer, was dictated more than anything by the vast distances they would have to sail in the Pacific, and the original requirement of a 21 knot fleet speed, which brought with it the need for four engines and large fuel bunkers. The U-boats would have been of little use in the sort of war we fought in the Pacific, as they would have arrived on station very low on fuel and probably without enough to return. (The Germans did send Typ IX/D2 boats around Africa to Malaya, and these boats obviously had a much greater range than the smaller Typ VIIs.)
Just in case there was any doubt, rather than being a real boat, this model is officially the U.S.S. Bacalao (SS-???). (Readers may have noticed that Bacalao's hull number was never mentioned anywhere in the book. This was intentional, as any number in the appropriate range for a Gato class submarine would have belonged to an actual boat, and there was never any intention of portraying an actual submarine's wartime actions in the novel.)
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