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Michael Smith
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2021 Modeling ReviewFour Essexes, Nine Aircraft and a 88mm

January 1, 2022 · in Uncategorized · · 5 · 1.7K

The first half of 2021 was the same as 2020 - multiple 1/700 Essex-class carrier builds. But the second half was something completely different.

The first several months of 2021 were devoted to finishing a "double build" of the Essex class aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard (CV/CVA-31) as it appeared in 1945 off Japan and 23 years later in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. (Build log is at ).

As soon as I finished CV/CVA-31 I started another Dragon Essex - this time USS Randolph (CV-15) as pictured in Barrett Gallagher’s 1959 book “Flattop”. The book details Gallagher’s experience photographing American aircraft carriers, beginning with the Essex class Randolph in 1945. The Randolph would be different from my other Essexes in several ways: (1) the flight deck markings are white: (2) the flight deck was the darker blue stain; and (3) the Measure 21 Navy Blue (5-N) would be heavily weathered after seven months at sea. (Build log is at

While working on the Randolph I took the opportunity to complete a model I'd begun in 1993 and almost completed the next year. Back in 1992-1993 I used Larry Gertner's article on accurizing a Hasegawa Essex kit to represent the Lexington (CV-16) in June 1944. After finishing that model in 1993, I wanted to build one that was as different as possible, and bought one of the "long-hull" versions of the Hasegawa kit, and decided to build it as Ticonderoga (CV-14) as it appeared when commissioned in May 1944.

I had almost finished the model by the next summer, but bought my first home and model making gave way to refurbishing a 1908 home - and CV-14 never got finished. Instead, it sat on my #2 dock with a similarly almost-finished December 1940 Yorktown (CV-5). It would be around 2017 before I would get back into modeling, and 2019 before I began completing 1/700 carriers. By the spring of 2021 I had four completed 1/700 Essex-class kits to join the 1993-94 ships and was closing in on a fifth, and I decided to go back and finish CV-14.

But it would need more just just a few final bits of railing, I realized. It needed some updated paint work and additional detailing to match the work I was doing on other 1943-45 ships of the class, even though it couldn't compete with the newer kits in detail. I repainted all the Navy Blue and Ocean Gray on the ship with the correct colors and added a number of additional camouflage panels based on a closer study of the camouflage patterns and photos. I also added floater net baskets and a few missing pieces of PE railing. But the biggest change turned out to be the addition of the doors and ventilation openings on the starboard side of the hull. Combined with a little light weathering and the new more subtle colors, CV-14 looks good with its sister ships (at least from a distance).

In the early fall I took several of the Essexes to a model competition in Arlington, Texas, and did a little additional work on last year's USS Oriskany (CV-34). The island numbers were too large and I found a set of smaller ones. I also scratchbuilt the refueling hoses and boom after I realized that I'd forgotten to include that when the model was originally built.

But in mid-August I decided to take a little time off the 1/700 carrier models to try something a little different. I wanted to build one of the 1/72 aviation subjects I had been adding to my stash for years. I have been avoiding them because my airbrushing was poor, and a plane would show it much more easily than a 1/700 carrier, which has few large exposed surfaces that aren’t broken up by detailing and weathering. Plus, I was tired from several years of ship (and Apollo launch tower) scratchbuilding where almost every piece had to be hand cut based on study on old photos and plans. I was really for some OOB building for a while - and to finish some kits.

Unexpectedly, over the next nine weeks later I completed eight 1/72 projects, and had a very different skill set for modeling going forward.

The first subject was a F6F Hellcat with an aftermarket cockpit and decal set with markings for Alex Vraciu’s aircraft. Next up was the first of several kits I picked up in Austin in late August - an old Airfix Avenger. I built it as Bert Earnest’s TBF at Midway. The next project was another of the Austin kits - a reissue of a class Airfix German 88mm with tractor. I had always wanted to build an 88 on its road wheels and this model was a great subject.

I upgraded kits next with a Trumpeter Flying Tigers P-40. This was the best aircraft kit I’d worked on in a while, and I really enjoyed the research into the subject. This is where I tipped completely into using Vallejo Model Air paint.

I definitely downgraded kits with my next build, an old Frog Junkers Ju 88 Luftwaffe bomber. I’d been wanting to build one of the awkward Luftwaffe twin engine bombers, but I was surprised at how primitive the kit was.

But I went back to the good stuff with the next several builds. First was one of the “new tool” Airfix kits, a F4F-4 Wildcat with folded wings that began a sort of sub-project of replacing older kits of favorite subjects, here Bill Leonard’s F-13 at Midway. That was followed by a DML Arado Ar 234 B, which was my first use of painting masks. Next up were another two Airfix "new tool" kits, a 1938 Hawker Hurricane, followed by a May 1940 Spitfire, the latter of which replaced an old Airfix kit. Both used painting masks, resulting in a far better painting job. And both had the three color black/white/aluminum undersides, which was fun.

The last kit of the year was a long-awaited Hasegawa SBD Dauntless which replaced a subject I first built in 2017 for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was the first use of canopy masks, and PE dive brakes/flaps.

Well, that was almost the last for the year - Randolph had been sitting nearly finished since the summer, so I spent New Year's Eve adding the last 20mm mounts and a challenging SK-2 radar and a final six aircraft for the air group.

Overall 2021 was a very productive and enjoyable year. I've got new skills, four new 1/700 Essexes, and have started the process of replacing some older aircraft models with new versions using better kits and aftermarket products.

Reader reactions:
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7 additional images. Click to enlarge.

5 responses

  1. Well done, Michael. I Like the carriers.

  2. Congratulations on your completed 2021 builds, Michael! All looking excellent and meticulously researched.

  3. A great body of work! Well done.

  4. A beautiful set build in 2021, Michael @mcsmith1964
    Looking forward to your builds in 2022.

  5. Well done Michael, it appears you had quite a productive year. Now on to 2022 hey.

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