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WW2 Liberty Ship
AK-99 Bootes
Skywave 1/700 Waterline Kit

Rob Mackie

Click here for the Warship photo tour of the Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O'Brien.

We've come to expect a lot from Skywave. Their injection molded 1/700 kits set the standard by which all plastic (though not resin) kits are measured.  Especially with ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Skywave generally gets it right. They seldom put out a bad injection kit, and some of their offerings have been outstanding. So I anticipated something special with their long awaited 1/700 scale WW2 liberty ship.

The Skywave Liberty is a good, but not great kit. It has some flaws, but most modelers will be happy with Skywave's interpretation of this very important WW2 vessel. The waterline hull is split longitudinally, similar to the manner in which Skywave molded its terrific IJN Submarine Tender Chogei. Skywave has chosen not to simulate the hull plating, however, something they did with Chogei to great effect. However Skywave has captured the external detail of the bulkhead which spanned most of the deck (minimizing the need for deck railing). The drainage scuttles are molded into the bulkhead. I suggest you drill them out for a more convincing appearance, and thin the bulkhead as well.  

Unfortunately Skywave has not captured the graceful curve characteristic of the Liberty ship hull.  The problem lies with the bulkhead.  It is straight and then abruptly slants upward about 2/3rds of the way forward. It should be a long ever-so-subtle curve from stern to bow. Compare the hull pieces to my photograph of the Liberty ship Jeremiah O'Brien.

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I am perplexed as to why they missed this important feature. I suppose some careful sanding can fix the problem, but why couldn't they get it right to start with? The numerous braces that support the deck bulkhead are also missing. This is likely a function of the injection molding process. Nevertheless the more compulsive among you will probably wish to add this feature using plastic strip.

Fixtures and minor details are generally very good, though the deck houses could use some detailing, especially watertight doors. Skywave has simplified the detail around the forward 3" gun tub considerably. The kit's forward 3"gun tub sits atop a solid and featureless piece of plastic.  In reality there is a lot going on under and around this tub, as shown in this photo:

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Forward 3" gun tub, anchor capstan et al.
Note bulkhead and wavebreak bracing

The vents, kingposts and cranes are nicely cast. The ships ten powered winches (one for each crane) are representations cast into the deck. This is acceptable in 1/700 scale but I would have preferred they be cast separately. This would have enabled them to sit proud, not to mention yielding a more realistic, less two-dimensional appearance.

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Crane winches and vent detail

To bring out the kit's potential, consider adding etched brass from Tom's. The etched brass set included with Tom's 1/700th Liberty ship kit should fit the Skywave kit with little or no modification. The Skywave kit also includes a useful sheet of hull number and flag decals. Subsequent to WW2 many countries used surplus US Liberty ships as part of their merchant fleet, so this kit has a lot of conversion potential.

In summary this is a decent if somewhat disappointing kit that will find favor with most modelers.  Perhaps I suffer from overexposure to Liberty ships, living as close as I do to the SS Jeremiah O'Brien.  The model has somewhat of a generic feel.  With a little work one can overcome its deficiencies, but I expected more from Skywave. Their Liberty, though acceptable,  is not the definitive 1/700th kit. Tom's Modelworks will soon issue a newly mastered version of its 1/700th Liberty at a price competitive with the Skywave version, available for $25 from Pacific Front.  It will be interesting to see how the two compare. And in 1/1200th scale there is a terrific, highly detailed Liberty ship by Len Jordan Models that I particularly like.

Click thumbnail to view full size picture

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Fret #1 front
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Fret #1 rear
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Fret #2
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Box art rear

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