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Heller’s Gneisenau in 1:400

Hellers Gneisenau in 1:400 was my first build of a major ship, where I went out of my way to improve an old kit. The Gneisenau was also the first build, where I documented everything I did with a camera.

At this time, around 2004, Heller was the only manufacturer, that offered kits of all the major german WW2 ships in a large scale. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had always been my favourite ships on account of their sleek lines and balanced upper structures, so rolling up my sleeves and going to work on Hellers Gneisenau, was the only option open to me, if I wanted to build her in a large scale.

Since then of course, Trumpeter, Dragon and Revell have issued much better kits in 1:350 of the german capital ships of WW2, and I have built quite a few of them.

Getting Hellers Gneisenau up to a decent standard, meant doing quite a bit of scratchbuilding. Hellers kit will result in a mix of how she looked at different times. I wanted to build her the way she looked during “Operation Berlin”, her most successful sortie into the Atlantic together with the Scharnhorst, in february and march of 1941. This meant further scratchbuilding.

All the ships rowing boats were equipped with floorboards and thwarts from 0,25mm plastic strip.
The propeller shafts were corrected and I also added sacrificial anodes to the hull.
I scratchbuilt the platform for the Flakvierling between the funnel and the hangar and the Vierling itself as well.
Further challenges were to scratchbuild the hangar and the 37mm flak mounts.
I also rebuilt the admirals bridge into a closed one and did quite a bit of work on the platforms of the central turret.

Although the kit dates back to the seventies, with the many of the shortcomings that you can expect from such kits, it must in fairness be said, that the fit of the parts is excellent.

The paintjob included painting the wooden deck with the “Plank on plank method” that is masking individual planks and painting the deck in four different shades of wood colour. When I then drybrushed the deck with dark grey, to bring out the raised seamlines, I made a mess of it all. I sulked for four days before I could bring myself to wash the deck down and to do it all over again.

When finishing the Arado float plane I tried to make masks for the “Balkenkreuze”. I failed and posted a question on the IPMS-Stockholm forum and asked for help.
“Give me the measurements”, answered Björn Bäcklund.
The next time we met, and before I had given him the measurements, he gave me a sheet of decals that he had converted from Tamiyas Bismarck in 1:350 and then printed out for me.
That’s a real modelling friend for you! Thanks again Björn.

I finished her in february 2005 and then traveled to Oslo with her to take part in the IPMS-Norway nationals. She won the ships category, I received my price and we rushed off to take the bus back to Stockholm before the price ceremony was finished.
When I came home to Stockholm I read on the IPMS-Stockholm forum, that Gneisenau had won “Best in Show”. I’m still proud of that.

I wrote an extensive article in two parts on the build, that Martin Waligorski translated into english for the IPMS-Stockholm homepage.

27 additional images. Click to enlarge.

24 responses to Heller’s Gneisenau in 1:400

  1. Yet another stunning build, Ulf…attention to detail is superb. Very nice work, sir.

  2. Stunning Ulf, the comparison pics with the pencil show the scale well .
    Great work mate.

  3. Impressive and you built it with a passion. The details are outstanding, bravo. Not just the ship itself, but the lifeboats, the Arado, stand alone models on there own. I love to build but man I wish I had your passion, thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you Chuck!
      Yes, she was built with a passion. I had longed to build her for years and it took me some eight months of concentrated effort to finish her.
      Do have a go at a ship yourself. There are plenty of small and medium size ship kits nowadays, that look quite good built out of the box.

  4. That is a great build. I particularly like the restrained weathering which helps to accentuate your work and not distract the viewer.

  5. Absolutely beautiful job Ulf, your scratchbuiding and painting skills shine through once again. Always a pleasure to view your work.

  6. Wow Ulf, you sure know how to build incredible great looking ships!
    I am always looking forward to your posts.
    California Steve

  7. I know it had to be frustrating & time consuming to bring a Heller kit up to your standards but you pushed through & earned your rewards.
    Well done Ulf.

  8. Beautiful workmanship, a great effort to improve a mediocre model kit to a winner status.

  9. Hi Ulf, your previous posts were stunning and you had shown your outstanding talent. For this one it is hard to find new superlatives, got the kit in my stash as well, to achieve THIS result it takes more than talent !!!
    Great build and the awards the kit has won are more than well deserved.

  10. @Bernd, Ulf,
    may I add the word resilience to talent and perseverance?

    now that a Gneisenau is out we must be close to the Trumpeter Scharnhorst that you published recently. Can’t wait …

  11. It certainly is a show stopper! I know the feeling having to scrub paint back off, it’s heartbreaking! One question if you don’t mind Ulf, did you have to cut the masking strips for the decks yourself, or is there a conveniently sized roll available on the market?

    • I cut the masking tape myself. I use ordinary masking tape that I put on a piece of plexiglass and cut using a steel ruler as a guide.
      I don’t think a narrow roll of tape would be an improvement, it would probably just be more fuzzy.

      • I bet that took a while to do. I’m sure the end result was worth it though!
        Thanks for that tip, I’m planning on attempting a digital camo scheme in the near future, I’ll do that instead of buying stencils. Cheers, you have saved me a couple of quid there!

        • As much as I love aftermarket parts, the traditional old school techniques are still often the best solution.
          Actually, cutting the tape strips is no big deal.
          First I put a large piece of tape on the plexiglass. I cut it crosswise in 15mm intervals. Then I cut it lengthwise in 1mm wide strips. Voila, now I have a number of strips that are 1 x 15 mm.
          I can’t see that a 1 mm roll of tape would make this easier. On the contrary.

  12. Great build of her Ulf. In a bit of an irony, my Great Aunt who grew up in Kiel as a young girl watched the launching of the Gneisenau, she’d never shared her experiences growing up during WW2 until last year. Like you, I love the lines of the German capital ships, hoping the start on the Scharnhorst soon. Again, very nice build.

    • Living in Berlin, I have several friends whose elder relatives lived through WW2. One thing these people often have in common, is that they did not talk about their experiences. It’s easy to understand why, but it’s sad that so much history gets lost.

  13. Another fantastic model ship from you, Ulf.

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