1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part XII

Right from the start the intention was to display Akitsushima on a base. For a flying boat to be on deck the ship would be at anchor, and if you are going to build a seaplane tender you want to show the seaplane.  Anchoring requires a water base, and in 1/72 scale part of the underwater hull would be visible below the surface.  That determined the type of hull to build – not a full hull but not a waterline either, an intermediate form with a flat bottom to facilitate mounting to the base.  Modeling a ship at anchor  also dictates several other details such as flags, hatches, chain markings, crew activities, etc.  Best to incorporate those right from the start and plan to get them right.
The base was made from a sheet of 1/2″ plywood trimmed in oak. The minimum width was determined by the wingspan of the Emily (22.78″ or 57.7 cm) and the length was determine by what would fit into the bed of my truck (70.5″, or 179.1 cm), with allowances for a protective box.  These measurements were then adjusted to allow for an acrylic dust cover to be fitted into slots at the edges of the base.  Here is the wooden base with a sheet of clear acrylic “water” cut out in the shape of the hull.



The ingredients used for making water were purchased locally with the exception of the Liquitex Gel Medium. This is an acrylic paint thickener used by artists and was used to simulate the water surface.  It has a consistency similar to a thick hair conditioner and dries clear.
The water on this base will have two surfaces – the upper layer will simulate the water surface and a lower level at the bottom to give some color and a feeling of depth. Here the lower layer is being built up with wood glue and paper towel.
This is covered in Aluminum foil, shiny side up. The idea is to achieve an undulating reflective surface.  When viewed through the uneven surface layer, the refraction and optical distortion gives a feeling of depth.
Color was added by applying a mix of the acrylic floor polish and the blue clothing dye. This was first laid down in a wet layer with a brush and allowed to collect in the depressions, then oversprayed with several additional layers through the airbrush.  Bluing used in the sheet metal industry should also work.
To add a bit of visual interest I added a few small sharks, something which is not at all uncommon in tropical waters. These were purchased from the gift store at a local museum.  In 1/72 scale they are roughly 6′ (2m) in length, a fairly realistic size.  These were pinned and glued to ensure they stayed in place, if they came loose there would be no easy way to fix them.
Akitsushima is mounted to her base using an entire bottle of Gorilla glue. Two of the three sharks are visible.  The acrylic water surface is also there, but is so clear it is virtually invisible in this photograph.
This is where the Liquitex Gel comes in. This was applied to the surface of the clear acrylic sheet to simulate the uneven water surface.  It was carefully worked into the joint where the water and the hull meet to hide the seam and bond the two together.
Here is the surface after drying for a day. The white areas will eventually dry clear, but I would caution anyone using the Liquitex Gel against laying down thick layers as they might not cure completely.  One of the sharks is visible in this view, and the lower hull is visible through the water.  The 13m utility boat will be shown rigged to a boat boom.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part XI

The upper part of Akitsushima’s crane is topped with a mast. Here is the very top section under construction.  The eyelets, fourteen in this picture, were formed by wrapping beading wire around a drill bit.  Several hundred were needed for this project but I didn’t try to keep count.  The turnbuckles are model railroad parts from  Tichy Train Group, the rigging blocks are from Syren Ship Model Company, which was also the source for the scale rope used on this project.
Here is the new crane mast test fit in place before painting. The main structure of the lattice support was built from bronze rod for strength.
The crane is covered in camouflage spots of differing sizes, and the pattern was applied right up to the yardarms and top of the mast. The cables were rigged with EZ Line.  This is elastic and quite flexible, which helps prevent any rigging disasters when the model is being handled or transported.
Another test-fit to check the crane for clearances with the aircraft in place. I delayed permanently attaching either the crane or the aircraft as long as possible to avoid breakage.
Another thing I was delaying – and the last major sub-assembly to be completed – was the forward gun mount. I had purchased a nice 3D printed gun, but this mount had a rather complex splinter shield which I knew was going to be difficult to construct.  Procrastination is a poor strategy, it always fails eventually.
I built a frame for the shield using the gun mount as a support, and then sheathed the frame in 0.010″ Evergreen sheet, one panel at a time to allow for the glue to set properly.
Pictures showed the canvas blast bag was a very loose-fitting droopy fixture, apparently the IJN skipped dealing with the zipper/seam problem entirely. I modeled the bag using my old standard of masking tape, superglue, and Mr. Surfacer, using the picture as my guide.
Here is the main gun shield complete and primed with the finer details being added. The shutters are shown closed, and were made from corrugated foil.
The finished mount in place. I was mentally prepared to have to build the shield a few times to get it right, but was quite happy to be surprised that the first attempt came out okay!  Not the way to bet, but sometimes you get lucky.
Akitsushima with the forward 127mm mount in place. With everything now mounted on the centerline, lifelines and davits can be added to the edges of the deck.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part X

Now the superstructure can be permanently attached. I try to work from the centerline out when adding details to reduce the risk of breaking off fragile parts.  Immediately aft of the forward gun are two ready service ammunition lockers, another mushroom vent, and the deck hatch with its associated railings.
More components can now be added around the superstructure. The biggest items are the sponsons with their 25mm twin mounts and the whaleboats.  Numerous smaller fittings are now in place on the main deck.
The whaleboats are mounted to their cradles, the starboard whaleboat has been rigged to its davits. Inside the boats the attachment harness is made from chain, forty links per inch is the finest available and looks the part in 1/72 scale.
An overall view of the chaos on the workbench. Two major subassemblies are still not complete in this view, the crane on the fantail and the forward gun mount.  Many smaller components are being installed at this point, I find it helps to shift between tasks to keep the interest up.
Here the fragile details are being added to the stack. The footrails were formed to shape from bronze wire, I wanted something solid in case I bumped it.  I aligned the supports using masking tape marked off in 5mm intervals, unfortunately the tape lifted off some of the paint which will have to be retouched.  The bronze rods projecting out horizontally are supports for the antenna rig, again I wanted something very rigid and solid.
The finished stack, all detailed up and painted, ready to install. I found it easier to rig the small boom while the stack was still a separate piece.
The 3D printed boat davits match those used on some IJN cruisers, but Akitsushima’s differ in several details.
At this point I became dissatisfied with the vertical section of the crane and decided to rebuild it. One of the issues was I could see a slight bend in alignment, which was a result of my building it as a stack of separate components.  Misalignment is a killer for scratchbuilders and can ruin the presentation of an otherwise beautiful build.  This time I formed the crane post around a central component to keep everything true, the small beige PVC pipe seen here.
The main components of the crane, seen here with their outer surfaces primed and sanded. I did not overlap the surface layers this time, they were butt-jointed and the seams filled with superglue which resulted in a much smoother surface.
The new crane mast to the left, the original to the right. I was able to strip off several of the detail assemblies and transfer them to the new crane, but I decided to rebuild the lattice work on the top with finer stock.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part IX

Here is a picture of the bow of one of the 13m utility boats which perfectly illustrates my love/hate relationship with 3D printed parts from Shapeways. I love the fact that there are many useful components available, often very complete assemblies which would otherwise take quite a bit of time to build up from scratch.  I hate the cost, and that the printing process leaves quite a bit of artifact which is very difficult to clean up.
Here is one of the 13m boats secured in its cradles on the deck. The detail on the bow and the stern was added from scratch, much of it to replace detail removed while cleaning up the rough printing.  The boat came printed with the engine exposed, I could not resist detailing the engine with wires and setting the cover aside for maintenance.
The midships Type 89 twin 127mm gun was cut apart to change its elevation, which also allowed a more thorough removal of the printing artifact. On the actual mount the loaders’ platforms were articulated so that they remained level at any elevation, so they were separated and rebuilt as well.  Grab irons were printed on the surface of the mount, these were removed and holes drilled out for wire replacements.
Here is the gun, rebuilt and reassembled.
Grab irons are made from beading wire bent to shape around pliers.
Here is the gun in place. The barrels rest on the mechanical stop designed to prevent the guns from being discharged into the stack.
This is the main battery director which sits atop the forward superstructure. Its core is a section of PVC pipe built up with wraps of Evergreen sheet to achieve the proper diameter.  After the core is built it is just a matter of adding details.
More details are added to the superstructure on the workbench. The two lattice structures are supports for High Frequency Direction Finding (HF/DF) loops, which allow bearings of radio transmissions to be determined – an important tool for helping a lost aircraft find its way home.
There are no known photographs of Akitsushima’s bridge interior, so I used this picture of the destroyer Yukikazi’s bridge as a guide for filling in the details.
There are many clocks, dials, and gauges on a ship’s bridge. I found several examples of Japanese gauges on the Internet, reduced them to the proper size, and printed them on photographic paper. 
Here is a view of the bridge interior with several dials punched out and in place. The deck grating is another laser cut item.  The Imperial Navy relied heavily on large pedestal mounted binoculars and employed them in large numbers on their warships.
An overhead view of the bridge detail and signal deck. The signal flags are nautical flags printed on the computer and folded up.
The painted superstructure, ready to be mounted on the model. The canvas dodgers are made from masking tape, sealed with superglue and painted.
Another view of the superstructure.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part VIII

Here is the hull just prior to painting. The deckhouse is now glued in place on the fantail, scuppers are in place on the hull sides.  I used Testors Model Master Enamels to match the Snyder & Short IJN color chip sets.  The TMM paints are readily available locally but I would not call them the best paints on the market.  Colors listed on the bottles are often poor matches for the actual colors they claim to represent.  Match the chip, not the name!  Also, please note that there are differences in the Snyder & Short IJN chips, as the samples used to make the chips varied.  This will not come as a surprise to anyone with firsthand knowledge of Navy issued paints.  Finally, I introduced variation in paint color to account for wear, fading, and scale effect.  All these factors tend to alter tone.
First the hull was primed with a gray automotive primer. Then the lower hull was sprayed Testors #2096 Schokoladenbraun ’43 which was a good match for the anti-fouling hull “red” on the Snyder & Short IJN chip.  The linoleum on the main deck was also sprayed at this time.  The S&S linoleum chip on Set 1 is lighter than either chip on Set 2.  I mixed 50% Testors #1736 Leather and 50% Italian Dark Brown.
The paint was allowed to dry overnight, then the deck and lower hull were masked off. Next the white false bow wave and stern wake camouflage areas were applied in light coats.  I wanted some fading and tonal variation here, so the coverage is rather patchy by design.
With the white masked off the lighter of the camouflage colors is applied. I matched this to the S&S chip for Type 22 Camouflage Light Green which was mixed from two parts #2115 Japanese Army Light Gray Green and one part white.  The spot pattern was masked using small balls of poster putty.
If you study Akitsushima’s shake down photograph carefully you will see a wedge of a darker camouflage color on the port quarter. This is not a shadow, it extends into the white false wake and is easily overlooked.  I cut a section of this color in Photoshop and compared it to the hull stripes at the bow and found they matched.  Operating under the assumption that the IJN kept to the same color pallet used later in the war, I determined the Type 2 Camouflage Green from the S&S chip set was the most likely match.  Testors Russian Armor Green #2129 was used, Russian Topside Green would also work.  Note that this green only appears on the hull sides, it does not extend into the stripes on the superstructure.
The rest of the hull was painted with Testors Kure Naval Arsenal Gray, and oversprayed with thinned mixes of this color cut with white to achieve some tonal variation. Large areas of the same color do not appear to be the same color in real life!  Similarly, the black stripe forward is “scale black”, or black mixed down to a very dark gray.  Here is a picture of the hull with the masks removed.
The Imperial Navy linoleum deck covering was applied in sections and the edges secured with 30mm wide brass strips. It turns out that a fashion trend in women’s nails is colored metallic stripes (who knew?).  I was able to order rolls of these stripes in several colors from a seller in Hong Kong.  The width should be 0.42mm, the nail stripes were 0.50mm but I felt I could live with the difference.  They were carefully measured out and brushed over with a coat of Gloss to ensure adhesion.
Here is a view of the starboard side. I derived the pattern from what could be seen in the photograph, but it is not very clear and subject to interpretation.  I later felt the black wedge aft was unlikely and eliminated that segment.
The starboard side again, posed with various subassemblies. Still a long way to go but Akitsushima is starting to look like a ship.
Now the small components can be painted up and added. I am working from the centerline out to reduce the risk of damaging fragile components.  More on this with the next post!

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part VII

To prevent personnel from slipping on wet decks most navies apply a textured coating, giving decks a rough or sandpaper feel. The Imperial Japanese navy covered decks on their warships with either a reddish brown linoleum surface or welded 200mm x 20mm flat bar stock diagonally to the deck.  The linoleum is easy enough to reproduce with paint, the bar stock was reproduced with sections of 0.010″ x 0.010″ Evergreen strips cut to slightly less than 3mm in length.  A large portion of Akitsushima’s weather deck was covered in these small strips as a form of treadplate, approximately 10,000 were applied to the model.
Here the after deckhouse is getting the detail treatment. The “Y-gun” depth charge thrower and reloads are 3D printed items, as are the mushroom vents and collapsible davit.  Lifeline stanchions are laser cut items from VectorCut.  The rack for the depth charge reloads was built following detail drawings of racks on IJN destroyers.
The after deckhouse from the opposite angle, now with the covered mooring line reels in place. The deckhouse assembly can be set aside to prevent damage and permanently attached later in the build.
Here the fo’c’sle has received some additional detail prior to priming and painting. The roller chocks on either side are part of the fittings for rigging paravanes.  The brake wheels for the capstans are more laser cut goodies from VectorCut, and two more 3D mushroom vents are added here.
From the breakwater to the change in deck level amidships Akitsushima’s weatherdeck was covered in linoleum. The deck hatches have all received inclined ladders which are a stock item from Evergreen, handrails were added to these.  Along the deck edges various chocks, bits, and cleats are added, and the holes for the lifeline stanchions have already been drilled.
This is the midships deckhouse area. The frame structure at an angle forward is a mechanical stop to prevent the midships 127mm gun from firing into the stack.  Some illustrators are confused by this structure and show the guns trained aft at zero elevation within this frame, pointed directly at the stack!  There are a number of “doodads” on and around this area, several were fabricated using parts from the spares box.
This is the turntable and tracks for the aircraft cradle. The gray parts to the right are cradles for some of the ship’s boats, a pair of 13m utility boats and an 11m motor boat in the center.  On my build the motor boat will be off on other duties.
The aft deckhouse test fit on the fantail. Just forward of the deckhouse is a capstan, and at the corners are rollers used to bend the lines around to the chocks at the stern.  At the deck edge are three roller racks on each side for depth charges.
The after main deck from a different angle. You can get a feel for the number of treadplates required in this view.
From this angle the recesses under the main deck are visible. These would provide some shelter for watchstanders on the quarterdeck in port.  The frame structures on the deckhouse are for stowing a spare float for an A6M2-N “Rufe” floatplane fighter.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part VI

Remember me saying to treat each subassembly as its own model? In the middle of the grind each subassembly complete equals a small victory, and visible progress towards completion helps keep morale up.  At least that’s how it works for me.  These three components are the collapsible deck structures located amidships.  They are shown completely erected, completely struck down, or with only the supports and stays in place in the various surviving photographs (see the earlier reference post).  The builder’s drawings show the forward structure was used to store spare propellers and control surfaces for the aircraft, but I could not determine the purposes of the remaining two.  I suspect they might have been engine maintenance and storage but that is speculation.
The main mast assembly built as a separate project. The structure is made from Evergreen tube, reinforced wherever possible with music wire cores for strength.  The pulleys hanging from the yardarms are for the signal hoists.  I found the ladders to be rather unforgiving, a rung is needed every 5 mm and the pattern makes even a slight misalignment noticeable.
The mast test-fit in place. Using the wooden construction base allowed me to handle the mast so I could easily work on it on the bench without damaging either it or the rest of the model.
While working on the mast on the bench I began detailing the fo’c’sle, alternating between tasks if I needed a break. The mounts for the main gun positions have a raised platform surrounding the gun to aid the shell passers in supplying ammunition to the loaders, who were on platforms alongside each gun breach.  This is shown on the drawings and is visible in Akitsushima’s shakedown photograph, but is a detail missed by kit manufacturers.
Detail on the fo’c’sle is beginning to shape up. Seams between the deckplates were reinforced with strips, and in the Imperial Japanese Navy flat stock was welded to the deck diagonally to prevent slippage.  I represented the reinforcing sprips with 0.010′ x 0.020″ Evergreen, and the non-skid bars with 0.010″ x 0.010″.  On the fo’c’sle alone there were almost 1,100 non-skid bars.  Anchor chain is a 3D printed item from Shapeways.
Moring lines in the IJN were typically stored on reels mounted to the decks. After the lines were stowed the reels were covered with battens and canvas and secured with line.  Using detail drawings I selected four sizes of reel designs to represent what I could see on Akitsushima’s drawings and photographs.  The large reels were made from wooden dowel, the smaller ones from plastic tube.  These were covered with masking tape to represent the canvas, which was then sealed with superglue and Mr. Surfacer 500.
Akitsushima carried six depth charges in roll-off racks on her main deck aft. These are 3D printed depth charges from diStefan’s Shapeways shop on Evergreen racks, secured with masking tape straps.
Various cowl vents, each made to represent a specific vent on the decks of Akitsushima. The vents were easier to construct than I anticipated.  The trick was to build them with square corners, then fill the inside of the joints with superglue.  This allows the corners to be filed off round without sanding through the material, and prevents the joints from working apart during sanding.
Here is the parts farm, primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200 to reveal any flaws before assembly. Most of these fittings are 3D printed parts from diStefan Shapeways shop (Sasa Drobac), the mushroom patch visible in the box is from Model Monkey (Steve Larson).  Both gentlemen were very accommodating and easy to work with, but the printing technology utilized by Shapeways requires quite a bit of clean up.
diStefan 3Dprint Shapeways shop here: https://www.shapeways.com/shops/distefano_3dprint
Model Monkey direct shop here: https://www.model-monkey.com/
An overall view with the major components posed in place. Ready to start detailing the main deck!