Detailing and Kitbashing Opportunities for Your Models
Many modelers enjoy adding extra detail or kit-bashing changes to their models so as to represent specific ships or the same ship at different times in its commission. During the ACW, many ships had periodic changes in armament or other details. The BAY team would like to offer some suggestions for your consideration. To assist your efforts to detail your models, BAY offers a number of packages of various types of artillery, boats, ventilators, and other accessories. Several other 1/600 scale ship model manufactures may be a source of some additional parts too.
While this article will provide examples using BAY models, we want to encourage you to perform conversions on any of your 1/600 scale models. Remember that it is easiest to perform conversions on your kits before final assembly or painting.
How many times have you heard some modeler say he/she doesn't detail or carefully paint the model because they want a game piece, not a decoration. Don't buy into this concept!! One visit to any gaming convention will show you otherwise. Gamers who are proud of their models do add detailing and careful paint jobs. Adding detail such as brass or plastic can actually strengthen the model. And if something does come off, just reach for your trusty tube of cyano-acrylic cement.
Regardless of your project, we recommend studying any photos or drawings of you vessel so as to be sure of where and how you will add the detail. Many books have good photos or drawings of many of the ACW vessels. You may also check the internet sites such as the USN Historical Vessels site. If you look at models posted on the BAY Gallery, you will see how and where other modelers have used these same techniques, including etched brass components.
Don't be afraid to try something as you never know where it will lead. You can always revise if you make any errors. The main point is to think your project through and plan carefully before starting.
Examples of all of the detailing techniques covered in this article are in the BAY galleries. Please review these photos to see just how the final outcomes add interest in your models.
Standing Rigging, Stack Guy Stays, Flag Staffs, & Stanchions:
Standing rigging, stack stays and other features are some of the simplest ways to dress up any model. There are a number of modeling manufacturers who provide straight brass wire. We recommend setting up your work shop with brass wire in 0.010, 0.015, 0.020, & 0.030 sizes. These four will provide straight brass wire for virtually all your needs. Look for displays of modeling metal products such as K & M Metals at your local hobby shop. If your local hobby shop doesn't have the wire you need, go to the web and look for Detail Associates Model Supplies.
While someone may say that they have a nice spool of brass wire, we warn you that spooled wire is virtually impossible to straighten out. Thus most modelers use straight brass wire on our models.
As a first step, we recommend spraying a gray base coat over your wire. This will allow paint to adhere later in the process.
All you need do is select the wire size most appropriate, measure and cut to the length you need for the particular stay. Cement into place with your favorite cyano-acrylic cement. Several of our team like to use Krazy Glue Gel as it allows some maneuvering of the parts to be joined, rather than just stick into the wrong position. After the cement sets, paint the final color over the wire including the cement junction. This helps strengthen the cemented joint.
If you're making a number of stays for stacks or stanchions for an awning, measure your first piece and use it as a pattern to cut your wire stays to the same exact length before installing. Use only the first piece as your guide. This way, all your stack stays will be assured to be the same length.
Flag staffs are simply a section of brass wire cemented into a hole in the deck.
Adding Boats & Davits:
Please study the arrangement of your subject's boat davits and locations. Some davits can easily be made from wire that you bend to the appropriate shape. Many davits of the time were iron with a semi-circle at the top where the lifting blocks were attached, resembling an inverted fish hook. Others were straight or angled pieces of wood. These can be made with plastic of the appropriate size and shape. Some vessels, such as many of the monitors, had their boats on frames above the main deck. The BAY USS Kalamazoo featured in our Gallery is one of these.
If using wire, we recommend one of the heavier wires such as 0.020, 0.025, or even 0.030, dependent upon the ship. Merely bend the wire into the shape you need. To make sure all the davits are the same we recommend construction of a simple jig to achieve the same bend every time. One simple method is to turn the wire around a nail, tube or other round item of the diameter you want to achieve. Thus your davits will be uniform in size and shape.
Drill a tiny hole of the appropriate size into the deck or hull of the model and cement the wire davits into place.
If using plastic, Evergreen offers a rather large line of plastic in a host of shapes and sizes. A tool such as "The Chopper" will allow you to set up a specific length and cut all the pieces you need to the same length. When cutting plastic, it is important to know that every knife or razor blade has a bit of a taper. Therefore you may need to lightly sand the ends of the pieces to square them. Otherwise the plastic pieces may not fit properly. Always check the fit before applying cement.
Use short pieces of the Cotton Thread Trick (see below) to add the appropriate lines between boat and davits.
BAY offers a nice package of various boat sizes to complement your models. Some of the models contain boats in the kits. However, you can always add more boats to your models!
Detailing With Etched Brass Ladders, Railings, Ratlines, & Other Items:
Several companies such as Tom's Model Works, offer etched brass detailing kits in 1:600 scale. If you haven't worked with etched brass, don't let it scare you. Etched brass is very easy to work with. Study your model and understand where and how you want to add the details. Be logical. If you are installing ladders, you'll want to bend the railings to be perpendicular to the ladder steps. For ratlines, merely measure and cut to appropriate size. Same with railings.
The etched brass can easily be cut with small sharp scissors or hobby knives. Be careful not to damage your parts by cutting in the wrong place. Cement into place using cyano-acrylic cements. It's your choice to paint prior to or after installation. However, many builders cement the etched brass into place then paint it so the paint acts as an additional binding over the cemented junctions.
The Cotton Thread Trick for Rigging:
in this article, we described the use of brass wire for any standing rigging on
your model. Just as a point of
clarification, standing rigging includes all mast stays and guys but does not
include lines used to handle sails. Standing rigging is fixed into place and
although adjustable, is not usually moved. Thus standing rigging was usually
black with tar to preserve it. Running rigging are those lines which are
For this trick, you will want to purchase 100% cotton thread in the diameter appropriate for the model's lines. This will ONLY work with 100% COTTON THREAD as only 100% cotton thread will absorb the glue you are going to use.
Cut a number of lengths of thread approximately 2 to 3 feet in length. Tie these to the horizontal section of a regular wire coat hanger. Attach a small weight to the bottom end. I like to use medical hemostats as they provide sufficient light weight.
up a small plastic bottle of Elmer's White Glue and place a bead of the glue
between thumb and forefinger. Starting at the top of a
thread, run your thumb and finger down the thread with a small rolling
After allowing to dry overnight the thread will be somewhat stiff and not susceptible to warping due to moisture in the air. Cut to convenient lengths such as 9 to 12 inches, and store where it won't get bent.
When using this thread to create your running rigging, merely measure and cut to length. Cement into position using Elmer's White Glue. After drying, you can use a razor blade or X-Acto knife to carefully trim off any excess.
The Kleenex Trick for Sails:
If you'd like to add sails to your model, some modelers use aluminum foil cut to shape and cemented into place. However foil can be somewhat tricky to shape the way you want to use it. Kleenex or other types of tissue will absorb Elmer's White Glue and with a little care, can easily form furled sails.
Use a piece of glass or smooth tile to work on. Cut the tissue to the size and shape for the specific sail you want to add to the model. Roll a light bead of Elmer's White Glue across the width of the sail. Immediately begin rolling the tissue and work it between your fingers so the glue is absorbed. Shape using a toothpick, dental probes, or other similar tools. Once the sail is to the shape you want, allow it to dry on the work surface.
After the sail is dry, carefully and slowly slide a razor blade under the sail to separate it from the work surface. Attach to the spar using cyano-acrylic glue to tack it into place. If you wish to add the reef lines attaching the sail to the spar, use 100% cotton thread and a series of running half hitches across the sail and spar. Then apply more Elmer's White Glue along the lines and across the surface of the furled sails.
The last touch is to carefully brush on a thin coating of Delta Ceramcoat clear varnish. You can find this in the hobby paint section of most craft shops. Once the varnish dries (allow an hour or so) you can paint with any acrylic paints.
Some modelers have gotten good results working with self hardening clay to achieve realistic looking furled sails.
Aluminum Foil Flags:
Although there are a number of paper flags available for models in this scale, sometimes the flag you want is not readily available. Two examples are the Chilean flag on our model of the Huascar and the Danish flag on our model of the Rolf Krake. Both of these models are on the BAY web site. Here's an easy technique using a piece of standard aluminum foil from your kitchen.
For this application "height" will mean the vertical distance from top to bottom of the flag as it is flying. "Length" shall mean the horizontal measurement of the flag. Cut a long piece of foil to the height that you will be using for your model's flag. Be sure the length is at least twice the length of the flag when it will be finished.
Holding the foil lengthwise put a crease in the middle of the flag. This will be where it folds around the flagstaff. Spread a thin coat of Elmer's White Glue along one of the inside surfaces and quickly fold the flag around the flagstaff. Use a pair of tweezers to compress the foil around the staff. Quickly working outwards gently squeeze the excess white glue from the flag.
Working quickly, paint the flag using acrylic paints from your local craft shop. We recommend applying white first as it will serve as a base coat. Add the other colors in the design you wish to create. Before the white glue is completely set, cut off the end of the flag to the length you want. Carefully use tweezers or other similar tools to shape the flag to the breeze as you wish. After shaping, touch up any areas of paint you may have damaged.
After it sets for 24 hours, you will be very surprised to learn how strong the flag has become. This technique is especially useful for French, Austrian, Danish or other flags which are simpler than the Stars and Stripes or the Confederate and British flags.
Some Examples of Models for Detailing:
Argosy and Marmora: These two tinclads also resembled other tinclads, but not to the extent as the many tinclads that resembled Forest Rose. BAY offers a kit of boats which can be added to many of our models. A number of the tinclads have been photographed with small boats, usually one to each side. Check photos and drawings for exact locations, but virtually all tinclads that carried boats, had them located on davits on the second deck.
& Tug boats: BAY offers a number
of tug boat kits such as Protected Tugs A & the larger B, plus Fanny,
Page, Little Rebel, Reliance, Satellite,
and Teaser. All of these represent vessels that frequented the
rivers and bays during the early 1860s. Changing or adding details or armaments
and varying your paint jobs can change these and create additional vessels for
your collection. One of the Protected Tug type B appears in the artwork of
the Federal squadron running past
Barges: BAY has a nice simple barge which can be fitted with various kinds of loads. A few of these had a simple bulkhead and were anchored as gun barges. A photo of one of these gun barges appears in The Photographic History of the Civil War. All you need to do is add a gun and the bulkhead. Other loads can include cotton bales, lumber, coal, or just canvas covered "something" loads. Coal may be easily created by using LiquiTex Texture Gel with fine sand which you'll find at your local craft shop. Place a portion of the LiquiTex into position and shape with a flat toothpick to a coal pile. Let dry and paint. Cotton bales were about 5 feet long by 3 feet wide and 2 feet thick. Use a fine piece of hobby craft wood in the appropriate size, slicing off pieces with a razor blade or X-Acto knife. Stack into place and glue together with Elmer's White Glue. Canvas covered loads can be created with a lump of plastic or clay covered with a piece of tissue soaked with Elmer's White Glue.
Buildings & Other Stuff: BAY's new series of buildings, our dock set, and our gun batteries all lend themselves to a great deal of detailing and changing appearances. Use your imagination and period photos to determine some of the things you can do with buildings. Items like additional porches, roofs, extensions, window flower boxes, signs, etc, can all add interest to your buildings. Gun batteries can be modified by adding lichen, model railroad grass of various colors, and even small buildings such as outhouses. Look for the photo on the BAY site which shows the same battery in different lichen & color versions.
Virtually any model may be detailed to some degree. We've seen great examples of some of our European vessels with detailing or modifications too. One example is BAY's British Prince Consort for which you'll find a conversion article on our web site. Use photos or drawings of your subject vessel to get ideas. One of our modelers has even rigged laundry hanging all over one of his models!
Should you do a kitbash of a BAY model, please take a couple of digital photos of your work and submit them thru the BAY web site. We'd be pleased to add your photos to the BAY photo gallery.
Happy modeling and happy historical gaming.