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Michael Smith
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2022 Build Review: When Double Builds Go Bad

2021 was such a good year. I finished 13 models – eight 1/72 aircraft, a 1/72 88mm gun, and four -class carriers, one a major kitbash.

2022, by comparison saw no models finished. Not one. Instead I started on one 1/700 double build, including rebuilding a 1994 model, switched to another double build, and late in the another, started on yet another, which would include finishing a model I started in 1992. Why? Well, my trial schedule was busier in 2022, and we had three major vacations that kept me away from the workshop. Finally, I started another masters program in the fall, and I realize now that most of my builds in 2021 were in the fall after I finished my prior M.A. program. But mainly the projects were enormous ones, and not the 1-2 weekend 1/72 aircraft builds of fall 2021.

1/700 Independence (CVL-22)


I built a 1/700 Dragon model of in 1994 straight out-of-the-box, which approximated the light carrier as it entered service. Shortly after that I obtained another of the same kit, along with the necessary photo etch (partially for research as I finished my CVL book for Squadron/Signal), and it sat in my stack for 20 years. Early this year I got interested in building the new kit, but as always, there needed to be a twist. Here it would be adding a full hangar deck, opening all the hangar doors, and modeling both elevators in the down position. I also learned that midwar refits enclosed the bow, changed the AA fit and even modified the flight deck slightly, so I decided to model CVL-22 in its late-war configuration. Oh, and in dazzle camouflage as well.

While I was at it, I decided to take the old CVL-22 kit, which had been on a base but was damaged when I removed it, and complete it as an early-war unit, the Belleau Wood (CVL-24) repainted into the correct lighter Navy Blue (5-N). I'm keeping the flight deck as is, since the coloring and decals are still as good as I could do now.

The hangar was a fascinating build, requiring study of ship plans and photos. The dazzle camo even went on okay. But the addition that burned me out on the build, at least temporarily, was adding the undersides of the gallery deck AA sponsons. The kit - like most WW II carrier models - has the sponsons hanging off the flight deck unsupported, when in actually they were all supported by cantilever structures going back into the hull. I did the port side forward with approximations of what photos showed, and ... decided it was time to switch to another project.

1/700 Hornet (CV/CVS-12)


I have been hankering to build a 1/700 SCB-27A Essex. Yes, I have a 1/540 Essex (CV-9), but I wanted to do one in 1/700. After a visit to the the summer of 2021 I decided that Hornet was the best subject, in part because she was still in existence, and was well documented during her recovery of Apollo 11, but also because unlike any other Essex, she retained almost all of her World War II - era rolling hangar doors, so a World War II kit would make a good starting point. I had picked up a Trumpeter Ticonderoga while visiting the Yorktown last year, so I chose that, with the usual Model Monkey parts (island, sponson, radars, etc.). The great flaw in the Trumpeter Essex kits is the separate hangar deck walls, but if you're building a SCB-27 ship with the widened hull, it's actually a benefit.

Again, I wanted this to be a double-build including the Hornet as it appeared in late 1944, as well as in its final configuration in 1969. Dragon makes a model of , but it appears to be post-1945 refit, and the correct appearance in 1944-45 is actually that of their Essex, which shows the class' early-war fit, so that's the kit I chose. Starfighter has a set of decals for the 1944 air group, so that slid the build back from spring 1945.

I spent a lot of time building an accurate hangar deck on , since this was the first time I could actually refer to photographs I had taken of the hangar that I was modeling. And I even built and placed a tiny Mobile Quarantine Facility for the astronauts. But when I set it aside late in the year, it was still several levels of detailing away from completion. The CV-12 version has gone almost nowhere, since I need to get the dazzle pattern airbrushed on the hull before I can resume construction, and the masking is an involved exercise.

1/700 Texas (BB-35)


It may have had something to do with the actual battleship leaving its birth at the San Jacinto Battleground this summer for a drydock in nearby Galveston, but whatever the motivation, I finally found a reason to complete the scratchbuilt 1/700 Texas that I started while still in Waco after law school in 1992. I had gotten the model basically complete except for detailing when I stopped working on it that spring, and when I saw that Trumpeter had come out with an excellent 1/700 kit I thought I would never finish it. Added to that was my assumption for several years that I had mistakenly built the ship oversized for a 1/700 build. It turned out I was right in the vertical dimension – for some reason I built the tripod foremast significantly taller than it should have been, but when I actually closely checked the main deck of the Trumpeter model against mine, they matched.

But what really gave me the motivation to complete the original model was when I realized that the Trumpeter version was of the battleship's final appearance in 1945, and not its appearance a year earlier when it supported the landings on D-Day wearing the two-tone Measure 22 camouflage. My scratchbuilt model was also of the 1945 appearance, but I researched how I could backdate it to June 1944. Well, then - we have another opportunity for a double build.

So while I have not gotten farther than priming the Trumpeter kit, I succeeded in backdating the 1992 model to its D-Day appearance (which involved mostly tearing down most of the mainmast structure and rebuilding it), priming and repainting it into Measure 22 (more coats needed, since the new paints I'm using are much thinner, and the darker colors are being handpainted on), replacing the aft fighting top with a 3D printed version, and finishing scratchbuilding the fighting top on the foremast. It would have been far easier and better to replace it with a 3D printed version as well - I even have multiple spares - but the 1992 fighting top was a sentimental favorite, and I wanted to keep it.

So no completed models this year, but substantial work on three major 1/700 "double builds". Maybe next year.


9 responses

  1. It is not only about the amount of finished builds, Michael @mcsmith1964
    Most valuable aspect in modelling is the fun.
    It can be clearly seen that you spent severe time into those two ships and did perform an amazing job.
    In the end they will be worth all the effort you put into them.
    Happy New Year.

  2. Ditto with @johnb 's words, Michael! No finished models but amazing, skilled work! In the end, you will be rewarded with excellent results!
    Happy 2023!

  3. Oh I'm having a ridiculous amount of fun figuring out what I need to do! I was just a little surprised that the year went by so fast and I never started a small build I could complete. But you're right - I'm doing what I want to do.

  4. It seems to me that 2022 has been very successful in advancing your double builds even though you didn’t actually finish anything, they are definitely long term projects.

  5. I have a simple rule with regard to the hobby , one at a time..., when I start one I don't start another until it's finished , if I was in your position I would feel swamped with unfinished projects. That said you have got through a lot of work and honed your skills .
    Looking forward to seeing those fantastic carriers finished .

  6. @mcsmith1964 - Amazing, the time and attention to detail you're putting into these builds is somewhat staggering. I imagine it can be overwhelming to get into so much accurate history with your builds. It's truly impressive. Keeping track of the details in so many simultaneous projects does seem challenging though. Especially while getting additional high level degrees... impressive.

  7. Thanks for sharing these, Michael. I love the two Texas models and the detail going into the carriers is amazing. My New Years resolution is to build at least one ship in 2023!

  8. Good progress so far and a head start for this year Michael.

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