Light Cruiser
USS Cleveland

Skywave 1/700 Waterline Kitcleveland.jpg (43405 bytes)

Reviewed and Constructed
Jim Gordon

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Great photo


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Stern closeup


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Starboard view


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Sprue B

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Generic details

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Tom's #715 Catapults


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Tom's #706 Radar

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Those of you wishing to build a 1/350 Cleveland class cruiser click here to read a review of the USS Miami by Gulfstream




The Ship
The 1942 Cleveland class light cruiser was a sleek, symmetrically shaped gunboat.    Initial armament consisted of 12 six inch guns in four triple turrets, 12 five inch guns in six twin turrets, four 40mm AA guns, and 15 20mm AA guns.  As the war progressed the need for heavier AA guns was addressed by the addition of dual and quad 40's at various locations.  However, the added weight of these guns made the ship precariously top heavy and unstable, necessitating removal of the catapults, depth charges, and other heavy items. 

The Model
The Cleveland kit by Skywave is a benchmark of clean molding and fine detail.
The hull and deck comprise sprue A, superstructure parts sprue B, and two sprues C of generic details are included.  There are enough spare guns, rafts, radars, etc. to complete a second model, so this in part mitigates the kit's high price ($45.00).   Also included are two decal sheets consisting of generic numbers/international flags and US plane insignia.

Parts fit is excellent. There is only microscopic flash on most parts, hardly noticable.   The superstructure assemblies, front and rear, are so good they snap together like
Lego blocks.  The only problem areas are the second level deck halves where they butt together.  One half is fractionally higher than the other.  Another slight problem is the manner in which the aft superstructure fits over a stepped area. The resulting gap must be filled.  Small problems, easily fixed.  You could   build this model in an evening or two straight out of the box, paint it  grey and have a nice replica. But this fine model deserves special treatment- in the form of Tom's Modelworks brass, and a special paint job-Measure 32/12d, four colors of blue and grey.

Etched Brass Builds Character
The Cleveland requires four sets of brass : railings, radars,catapults, and 20mm guns.   Tom's brass is especially delicate, but forgiving.  Some parts, like the funnel grills, are so fine as to be maddening.  The catapults, of which two are required, were the most difficult etched brass components.  The parts bend well, and fit as advertised, but the instruction sheet will leave you scratching your head.  I carried the instructions around for a day or so and kept going over them until my brain said Aha! It's like those 3D posters that you have to stare at for a while until the image forms.  Good tweezers are a must, as well as a strong light and magnifying glass.  A shot of Wild Turkey might help as well.  I spent about 3 hours per catapult and that was too long.   I now take a break after an hour working on the small, fine things in order to save my eyes and neck.  Of course, if you are an Origami Master, it should take you much less time.

Next in difficulty is the pair of Mk 8 radars which must be bent around formers of styrene strips.  Think of performing a vasectomy on a mosquito and you get the idea of the delicacy of this operation.  The rest is relatively easy, more radars, prop
guards, funnel grilles, cranes, ladders, and stairs. As to the railings, I affix them to the hull with slightly thinned Krystal Kleer white glue.  If you screw up, and you will, just dissolve the glue with water and start over.  You can't do that with superglue.  White glue also allows you to feather the glue edges to the parts, eliminating bumps and thick sections.  Just wet a brush with water and paint over the glue until it smoothes out.

I use the same method for applying the streched sprue rigging.  Use a dark grey, or black sprue for rigging-you won't have to paint it, and when you matte overspray the model the rigging loses it's waxy plastic sheen and blends in nicely.  Of course, if your ship is one color, just spray the rigging the same color and this looks very nice indeed.

I chose the early 1942 mottle scheme of four greys. Actually, two of the greys appear blue, but are considered types of grey.  In a nutshell, they are all made from a blue-black color in which percentages of white are added, but they all start from the same color.  Sea blue is a dark blue, but not as dark as Navy blue.  Deck blue is darker than Sea blue, but different than Navy blue.  Get it?  Ocean grey is a medium grey, haze grey a light grey.  All vertical surfaces are painted ocean/haze grey.  All horizontal surfaces (decks, turret tops), deck blue.  Hull sides are Sea blue and ocean grey.  Some parts require two, three, and even four colors.   I decided early on to brush paint each part individually as I went along.   I did spray the hull and main deck, but the superstructures, guns, and all other parts were brushed.   I used some Polly S Sea Blue and Ocean Grey as starting points, but both were too dark for this scale, so I adjusted them with white, medium blue, and purple, depending upon the color.  My overall goal is to reproduce the look of original color photographs of the period, not achieve an exact color match, which is not likely anyway. 

The painted ship was oversprayed with Pactra Flat Acrylic, full strength.   This will eliminate any glossy areas resulting from the white glue, and even out the reflectance of the four greys.  I added some pastel dust to the hull sides:   brown, dark grey, and light grey in random areas in a vertical streak pattern.  

Finishing Touches
Lastly, I mounted the Curtis Seahawk scout floatplanes on their catapults, and a dozen or so crewmen for scale effect.  These little men are not easy to paint, but then in this scale you could get away with painting them dark grey overall and they would still look fine.

I constructed a simple rectangular base out of oak strips, and cut a half inch thick rectangle of styrofoam for the ocean, to fit inside.  The water is dark blue/purple acrylic gesso, shaped and textured with a brush around a foam board dummy of the ship's hull.  The foam board was coated with hot candle wax, then tack glued to the styrofoam base.  Gesso was worked up to the side of the dummy, and when dry, the dummy was popped off the styrofoam leaving a nice hull shaped hole in the water. 

Polly S Sea Blue was sprayed thinly overall , then white and green were added and sprayed around the hull to simulate churning water.  Pure white was sprayed at the stern.  The ocean was then inserted into the base, and the model tack glued into the ocean.  Lastly, a thick coat of  gloss acrylic gel was brushed overall, up to the hull sides, sealing the model in the water.  Minor drybrush highlights on the water finished the ocean.  A descriptive plaque was made from a thin square of sheet brass, with rub on lettering.

The difficulty of the four color sceme was forgotten when I viewed the finished model.   Seeing the Cleveland against the dark ocean makes it readily apparent why the Navy painted ships in this manner. Thanks to Skywave and Tom's Modelworks, 1:700 scale ships can meet, or exceed, larger scales in accuracy, detail, and viewing pleasure. 

I give the Skywave Cleveland my highest recommendation.

Special thanks to Rob Mackie for providing the kit and reference materials; US
Navy Camouflage, Pt.1 by the Floating Drydock, and US Cruisers, by Norman
Friedman,  and to Admiral Bert McDowell for both his midnight parking lot
brass supply, and phone advice.