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Building the Aoshima 1/700


By Bob Pearson

After many years of building aircraft, I have recently returned to building ships. For my first ship in over 15 years I decided to build the 1/700 Tamiya O Class destroyer, however the more I researched the more I saw it needed correction. Therefore while waiting for material to arrive via the Ship Modellers Mailing List (SMML), I started on the Matchbox HMS Kelly and HMS Ariadne . . . same thing. So I started on the Skywave Z Class destroyers (as these are now marketed by Tamiya, it shows how long they were in the closet). These also needed work as I wanted to modify one into the flotilla leader Z-28. So with six ships now underway and all waiting on either references or photo-etch detail parts I finally found one that I figured I could do as an OOB build - the Aoshima Unyo (however I have since seen what this kit is selling for, so perhaps it should have received the extra detailing). Ah well, live and learn.

The Ship

By 1940 it was becoming obvious to the world's navies that they needed more aircraft carriers, one relatively easy solution was to modify merchant ships and passenger liners by adding a hangar and flight deck to the existing hull. The first such conversion was the British HMS Audacity, which was followed closely by the Japanese Taiyo (ex-Kasuga Maru) and her sisters Unyo (ex-Yawata Maru) and Chuyo (ex-Nitta Maru). Taiyo entered service on 15 September 1941, Unyo on 31 May 1942 and Chuyo on 25 November 1942.

The three were employed as training carriers and aircraft transports. All were to fall foul of American submarines with Chuyo being the first to go. She was lost on 4 December 1943 to the USS Sailfish, followed by Taiyo on 18 August 1944, sunk by USS Rasher, and finally Unyo on 16 September 1944 victim of the USS Barb.

The Model

As mentioned Unyo won out by default for my first ship in many years (2 1/2 since my last completed model - illustration has been eating up modelling time), and as such I decided to do it strictly OOB. For all the others in the 'rotating shipyard' no matter how hard I tried I couldn't just build them as is, but this time I was determined to do so as I wanted to actually finish something.

In common with all the other 1/700 ships I am working on the first thing I did was CA the weight onto the separate bottom of the hull and affix said bottom to the hull - that was my first mistake. After getting the seam between Unyo's bottom and hull nicely smoothed over I then proceeded to add the bow and stern deck inserts. However these would have been a lot easier to install if I had kept the bottom off the hull and been able to place a finger inside to keep the deck at the proper location on the hull. As it is they tended to slip down just a little - some minor carving and filing fixed this, but it would have been easier to have just tacked them in place with CA and then used Testors liquid cement and capillary action to do it right.

At this point I have to give a plug for Faller Expert Plastic Cement. I bought a 25g bottle of this stuff 11 years ago and it is still going strong after over 100 kits built!

Okay, sales pitch over and back to the kit. At this point I was still playing with all the other ships (hence the 'Rotating Shipyard' moniker applied by Mistress Lorna) and hadn't quite decided on which to really complete (at about this time I started on an IJN destroyer as well - these were all started within a week of each other), so I next attached the sides used to bridge the gap from the original hull to the flightdeck. After this was completed I was very tempted to attach the flight deck, but I had decided that the airbrush would be used and the flight deck would be held off as long as possible.

The various gun mounts, catwalks and guns were then cleaned up and set aside while I hollowed out the end of the funnel (my only concession to AMS - the others ships were getting it in a full dose anyway). All the portholes were drilled out starting with a pinvise and graduating to a motor tool (which worked much better and seemed to give better control). Once done and cleaned up all the platforms were then added and I returned to work at the shipyard while this one cured.

After a thorough washing I was ready to break out the airbrush for only the second ship ever ... nervous doesn't quite describe the moment ! As it was now around 1am and my local shop only carries the small Testors bottles (not the Model Master ones) I rummaged through all the paints I have accumulated over the years and settled on Tamiya RLM Gray (sorry guys, but remember this is just a practice kit). Along with the hull the underside of the flightdeck was painted, and all were set aside to dry. Once dry the flightdeck was finally attached. The deck markings were then sprayed on using Ceramcoat white, while the circle was handpainted.

All the guns were now added and I turned to the airgroup. Years ago I robbed all my 1/700 kits of their aircraft for wargaming and had to track down where I had put them. Luckily I found a sprue of untouched IJN types, so these were painted in Tamiya IJN green upper surfaces and medium grey bottoms (practice remember), while black cowls, white canopies and red/white hinomarus completed the picture.

At this point Chris Banyai-Riepl dared me to try and weather it (practice, he said!) so I went to Rusty White's article on weathering, and realised I had none of the material needed (once again it was in the early hours of the AM). So I decided to see what could be done with what I had.

The flight deck was dirtied up by spraying with black, while the hull was given a wash of Ceramcoat Burnt Sienna heavily watered down. Later I went back and added some streaks with a fine brush. . However I overdid these but had already cleaned and put the airbrush away so I decided it was fine. The aircraft were attached with white glue, the antennae added and my first kit in a long time was done.


There were many things I wish I had done differently, but on the whole I am pleased with the Unyo. I mostly wish I had known it was selling for $50 before I started and wasn't treating it as a throwaway kit while waiting on parts for my $5 Matchbox conversions. Now for those destroyers !!!



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