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Tom's #715 Catapults
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 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 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
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.
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
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
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.