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RN Saetta, my first scratch build.

It was inevitable. After building the Roma, where I scratch built a lot of the details, and the Pola, where I scratch built half the model, scratch building an entire ship model was just the next natural step. Especially since I wanted to build more Italian ships and had built the only two available kits in my preferred scale 1:350.

(Since then, Trumpeter has brought out the Zara, but considering that the large and modern Italian Navy was a deciding factor in the War in the Mediterranean, it’s deplorable how few kits there are of these beautiful ships.)

Profile Morskie had plans for this cute little destroyer, that seemed small enough, so that I could finish it within reasonable time. On the whole, they were very good plans, even though I found some minor flaws in them.

I very much considered this to be a learning project. Failures and setbacks would be part of it; actually the build started with a major one.

I built the hull in layers, cut out using the water lines of the body plan as templates. I pressed the layers together with clamps to get really solid joints.

As could only be expected, the clamps pushed the layers sideways. I was aware of this problem and had tried to prevent it, by threading the layers on to 1,8 mm steel posts, secured to a piece of particle board, but the posts were way to thin to stop the sideways movement.

I made new layers, each with a centerline this time, and used only hand pressure when I glued them together.

Then I formed hull to shape using frame templates, that I had made by gluing paper copies of the frame plan to .5 mm plastic card and carefully cut out each frame.
This was of course time consuming, but actually very enjoyable. It was great fun to see this rough piece of plastic gradually being transformed to the sleek hull of a destroyer.

Building the superstructure was easier than I thought. It was just a matter of working systematically.

Making the funnel was another fun little challenge.
I started by winding a strip of .3 mm styrene sheet around a dowel and securing it with tape. The shape of the dowel corresponded to the inner measurements of the funnel. The package was then dipped into boiling water for a minute or two and then left to cool off.

When the tape was removed, I had several layers of sheet that could be cut loose and joined together…

…to form the funnel.

Only it wasn’t as easy as that. There were, eh, a few failed attempts….

One great thing about scratch building, is that, once you get the hang of it, you can build better details than the manufacturers can produce.

The most challenging and frustrating part of the build was building all those ammo boxes, davits, cranes, floats, fairleads, air intakes etc that. This is the result of three weeks of work, working a couple of hours every day. It fits into a matchbox.

The light artillery came from three sources. The double 20 mm mounts are resin parts from Niko Models, the 37 mm singles are from Trumpeters Roma, with barrels from Master Models and the 20 mm singles were scratch built.

It was almost a shame to paint the model. It reminded me of those bone models that French prisoners of war built during the Napoleonic Wars.

If you would like to learn more about the techniques I used to build the model, pick up the November 2018 issue of Fine Scale Modeler, that came out in september. It is available as a back issue.
For German speaking readers, there was an article in two parts in the May and June 2017 issues of ModellFan.

13 additional images. Click to enlarge.


29 responses to RN Saetta, my first scratch build.

  1. Ulf, all I can say is incredible and Bravo to an excellent scratch built ship in this scale. In any scale really. Definitely a gift to be able to achieve such detail. To some day hopefully to enjoy seeing these ship models in person it would like going to the Louvre and view the famous paintings of Rembrandt and company, I know there is no comparison, but to a modeler it would be to appreciate the intricate detail and patience to create such a masterpiece as your vessels have graced the pages of this site. Thanks for sharing an amazing ship and your gifting in creating these wonderful ships.

  2. I really appreciate you posting this, Ulf. I have been toying with the idea of working on some scratch building and this thread has given me a little more food for thought and confidence to push the button on an actual project. the work you have done here is terrific and it must be very satisfying to have made a wonderful miniature from your own imagination and skill.

    I can really see what you mean by the ‘bone model’ comparison…

    The Saetta is a wonderful achievement. Thanks for sharing your techniques and thoughts.

  3. You make it looks so simple…
    Doing some 1/72 cockpit scratch build, I can’t even imagine the extension of the work you did.
    Tell us more about the tools, materials, glues and so on, please.
    Congratulations!

  4. I read your complete article on Fine Scale Modeler! Excellent article and very helpful. Your ship came out great and looks like a main-stream manufactured kit….wow! I have been making models since I was 10, now 54, but have never accomplished what you do with this scratch build destroyer. SO awesome. It is a very nice looking and one-of-a-kind model. Masterpiece! I look forward to more of your work and many more informative articles. I hope to some day borrow some of your techniques to scratch build my own ship. I would like to combine what you did with the new technology of 3-D printing. I have used some 3-D printed parts to create my own builds but never scratch build. I think a combo including the art of scratch building with the 3-D print world is our future for modeling. It would be awesome to see an article which provides tips on doing this, as it is so so new to everyone.

    • 3D printing and scratch building is definitely a combo to explore. I’m a very traditional craftsman and haven’t learned the techniques of 3D design. I prefer to spend my time doing things with my hands and haven’t acquired the neccessary computer skills to be able do 3D print my own parts. I can see the benefits though. Traditional crafsmanship combined with 3D printing could open all kinds of possibilities. When the person who has both those skills comes along, we will see some amazing models.

  5. There are ‘modelers’ and then there are MODELERS….brilliant craftsmanship, Ulf!

  6. Great article, Ulf.

  7. I saw the article in FSM and wanted to say “Hey Ulf – great model!” and now I can.

    Hey Ulf – great model!!

  8. Very nice build, and great building skills! It is good to see that there are still scratch builders among the modelers. Sometimes it seems that people build nothing, but shake-and-bake Tamiya kits.

  9. Building an entire ship from scratch isn’t modelling, it’s craftsmanship. Astonishing work Ulf, my sincere congratulations! There are a handful of scratch genius here on iModeler wich is very nice, and you are one of them.

  10. An amazing build!!!

  11. WOW, WOW. . .WOW! Excellent attempt at your first scratch build.
    Thanks for showing some of your build log. Got some helpful tips. Much appreciated.

  12. Excellent build and article Ulf. I’ve always admired anyone who attempts to scratch build anything. Yours turned out exceptionally well, thanks for sharing. BTW, I’ve been to Berlin, in the 70’s to be exact, when the Wall divided the city. Lovely city none the less, have got to go back someday.

  13. Beautiful. I have always admired those who can scratchbuild ships. Wonderfully done!

  14. Well, it’s all been said, so let me just add my accolades! Incredible effort and result. Although I don’t build ships I’d buy your book in a heartbeat just to learn how to add more pizzaz to my 1/72 aircraft.

  15. Great build with great details! I scratchbuild aeroplanes and I know how much work finishing even a relatively small model from nothing not speaking about an entire ship! Great work!

  16. What a skillset you have Ulf, all my respect! If you need a 3D design once, let me know. I have a Prusa FDM printer which is ok up to .2 mm.

    Michel.

  17. This stops worrying me about whether one day you could run out of adequate ship kits. Now Ulf’s ship models can go on and on and that’s great news.

    • Actually, that is one of the reasons I started scratch building. There are very few ship kits that I want to build and lots of ships that I want to build, that there are no kits of.
      I have plenty of plans in my computer though, and even paper copies of the original plans of a WWII German battlecruiser.

  18. Absolutely magnificent, a state of art … a quality and phenomenal work … congratulations Ulf.

    Greetings.

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