Every once in a while, you stumble across something that makes you wonder how you managed without it : superglue, for example, or casting resin. Well, I recently saw this in a museum of all places, and thought 'why not?'. After all, it's not everyday you see a new book on making model warships, let alone Royal Navy vessels, is it? And before you non-RN readers stop reading, I'd like to reassure you that this book could be about ANY Navy - it just happens to be a British book.
So - what really made me buy it? Let's start with the front cover. This is a good photograph of HMS Illustrious - 'so what?' you may be thinking. Well, have a close look - this is the new bow deck for the Invincible-class carriers, and that fact alone tells me that this book is NEW, a fact confirmed by the photo's date : Sept 1999. Moving in to the Contents, the book is split into three main sections : Part One is on the ships, Part Two is on building methods, and Part Three looks at two ships in particular - HMS Campbeltown and Marlborough. While this book is aimed at – Braille scale –(as a friend of mine put it) or 1:192 and larger, the various parts can be used and adapted right down to 1/700 or even smaller.
Part One : The Ships
There are three chapters in Part One, and these are the historical background, today's Royal Navy, and how to choose a subject to model. Looking back over the last century or so, ships have changed drastically from the wooden vessels of yesteryear. No longer the sleek sail-driven man'o'war with the cannons on several decks, they have gone through many changes in such a short (comparatively speaking) time period.
The first chapter walks us through this period, and looks at the various types that came and went, as well as those that have stayed the course - battleships and battlecruisers, the inter-war peace and rearmament, the Second World War and aircraft carriers - there is a lot of history packed in a small chapter. All this takes us neatly into what the Royal Navy is today – a small, but capable, fighting force, as proved in the Falklands War (with no help from other Navies), as well as the Gulf War, and beyond with other UN actions, where the RN fills a role no other Navy could do as well, not even the USN (who entrust the protection of several of their mighty vessels to the care of the RN).
But what to model? A majestic battleship, splendid in her glory? Or a sleek destroyer, prowling the seas? Well, the last chapter here will give you various ideas, and is not just looking at the RN - indeed, the US Navy and the Russian Navy are in evidence as well.
Part Two : The Methods
This is the largest part of the book, and looks at a lot of topics. Let's take them as they come.
Chapter Four is on Lines of Approach, an overview at what is to come.
Chapter Five goes straight in to Specialist Suppliers - there is a list of (mainly UK) companies who provide plans, hulls and fittings for whatever you want to build.
Chapter Six looks at Plans and Information - here you are taken through what to expect from the available plans, and what NOT to expect. Guidance is given on what you should look for in plans - some are just that, a set of drawings of the relevant vessel. Others have some information for model builders while others still are aimed exclusively at the builder, and have almost everything you need - 'almost' being the word, as what is portrayed in the plan is not necessarily the ship when you want to build her, or may even be a generic plan of the class. Research is the word here, and cannot be over-emphasised. So once you have a set of plans you are happy with, the chapter finishes on how to read them, and has plenty of useful hints.
Chapter Seven covers the Hull and Weatherdeck. This takes you through areas such as building a GRP hull, fitting the hull out, applying the decks, and how do make a difference between planked and steel decks.
Chapter Eight covers working in plastic - from styrene sheets to what adhesives to use to rod & strip.
Chapter Nine covers Superstructures - how to plan and design what is needed, easy methods of construction from several types of materials, cornering and rounding as well as building recesses and the camber.
Chapter Ten moves into Working with Brass. Now, modellers in 1/350, 1/600 and 1/700 will be saying "I know how to use photo-etch" but remember the scales this book is primarily aimed at - this is working with brass rod and sheet, and will help develop soldering skills.
Chapter Eleven moves over to Fittings - covered here are building the small but essential parts out of styrene, brass, wood or resin.
Chapter Twelve starts us on the last lap - Finishing your ship. Do you have a gleaming vessel, or is she weathered? What colours should be used? Camouflage? How about the underhull? All of which leads us to . .
Chapter Thirteen and Painting. Both airbrushing skills and brush skills are in this chapter, and is one of the more important ones - after all, a well-painted ship can be forgiven a lot of faults. Lastly, Chapter Fourteen covers the Finishing Touches - the flags for the ship.
Part Three - The Models
Chapter Fifteen looks at the Type 22 frigate - more specifically, HMS Campbeltown, a Batch III vessel. Her history is examined, as is her appearance (did you know her badge is a lemon tree?). Available plans are looked at, as are available hulls, before various building notes are covered.
Chapter Sixteen is the same for the Type 23 frigate, specifically HMS Marlborough
The book is very well written, and covers a lot of topics. Not everything is covered in as much depth as I would have liked to see, but even these areas give enough to start you off and point out pitfalls. Almost every page has a photograph of a ship or model, or a close-up of a particular feature mentioned in the text. Indeed, for a book of about 120 pages, I estimate there are over 130 photographs or diagrams!
For a builder of ships this size, it is a good reference book. For someone new to this scale, it is invaluable. For those building in smaller scales, it's use does decrease, but I would still recommend it both for the techniques that can be transferred across, and for the skills that these modellers would not ordinarily think of using. For myself, this was money well spent.