Classic Warships 1:350th Scale
Alaska Class Heavy Cruiser

CB-2 USS Guam
Build-up Review By John Sheridan


The Ship:

From DANFS:
(Pictures Courtesy of the National Archives)


The second GUAM (CB-2) was launched 12 November 1943 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J.; sponsored by Mrs. George Johnson McMillan, wife of Captain McMillan, former governor of
Guam; and commissioned 17 September 1944, Captain Leland P.Lovette in command.

After shakedown off Trinidad GUAM departed Philadelphia 17 January 1945 and joined the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor 8 February via the Canal Zone.  Shortly thereafter GUAM was visited by Secretary of the Navy Forrestal. Clearing Pearl Harbor 3 March GUAM sailed into Ulithi 13 March where she joined forces with her sister ship ALASKA and other fleet units to form another of Admiral Marc Mitscher's famed task groups.

Sortie was made from Ulithi next day and Admiral A. W. Radford's Task Force 58, one of the most powerful task forces in naval history, proceeded to vicinity of Kyushu and Shikoku, arriving the morning of 18 March.  In her group sailed some of the most gallant ships ever to go into harm's way: carriers YORKTOWN, INTREPID, INDEPENDENCE, and LANGLEY; battleships MISSOURI and WISCONSIN; cruisers ALASKA, ST. LOUIS, SAN DIEGO, FLINT; and 15 destroyers in the screen.  GUAM's battle debut soon came.  The fight began with five kamikaze attacks on the carriers.  GUAM's guns were directed at the raiders.  During this first battle, the carriers ENTERPRISE and INTREPID, both in GUAM's force, were damaged but continued to operate. ENTERPRISE took a bomb hit near her island structure; a suicide plane crashed INTREPID's flight deck aft and glanced off and plunged into the sea. Continued air attacks during the afternoon resulted in the destruction of four enemy planes by GUAM's group, one of which she splashed.  The next afternoon GUAM was despatched to escort damaged FRANKLIN from the combat area.  This lasted until 22 March.

After replenishing GUAM rejoined Task Group 58.4 and departed for combat area in vicinity of Okinawa Gunto, Japan.  On the night of 27 to 28 March 1945 Admiral F. S. Low's Cruiser Division 16 in GUAM conducted bombardment of the airfield on Minami Daito.  Then until 11 May GUAM supported carrier operations off the Nansei Shoto. After repairs and replenishments at Ulithi GUAM again departed for the waters east of Okinawa, as a unit of Admiral Halsey's 3d Fleet, Task Group 38.4.  Here she continued to support the carriers launching fighter sweeps over the Kyushu airfields.  On 9 June GUAM, ALASKA, and five destroyers conducted a 90-minute
bombardment of Okino Daito.  Course was then set for Leyte Gulf, arriving San Pedro Bay 13 June after almost 3 months of continuous operations in support of the Okinawa campaign.

GUAM now got a new assignment as flagship of Cruiser Task Force 95, composed of large cruisers GUAM and ALASKA, four light cruisers, and nine destroyers.  This force steamed into the East China and Yellow Seas between 16 July and 7 August 1945 on a shipping raid.  Direct results were few, but the fact that a surface sweep of Japan's home waters could be made without harm proved that overwhelming dominance and mobility of American sea power.  GUAM's group retired to Okinawa 7 August. A few days later GUAM became the flagship of Rear Admiral Low's North China Force and circled the Yellow Sea parading American naval might before the major ports of Tsingtao, Port Arthur, and Darien.  She then steamed into Jinsen, Korea, 8 September 1945 to guarantee occupation of that liberated country. 

GUAM departed Jinsen 14 November and reached San Francisco 3 December landing a contingent of Army troops for discharge.  Clearing San Francisco 5 December 1945, GUAM arrived Bayonne, N.J., 17 December.  She remained there and decommissioned 17 February 1947; GUAM berthed with the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1 June 1960 when her name was struck from the Navy List.  She was sold for scrapping 24 May 1961 to the Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md.

GUAM received two battle stars for World War II service.


USN Alaska Class CB

General Characteristics

Class: ALASKA Type: Large Cruiser (CB)
Launched: 2 February 1942 Commissioned: 17 September 1944
Decommissioned: 17 February 1947 Fate: Stricken 1 June 1960 Sold to Boston Metals, Baltimore MD for scrap

Dimensions

Design Displacement: 31,500 tons Design Standard Displacement: 27,500 tons
LOA: 808 feet  3/16th inches Beam: 80 feet 9 9/12 inches
LWL: 790 feet Hull Depth: 46 feet 9inches

Powerplants

Boilers: 8 (634psi, 850F) SSTG: 4-1250
Diesel Generators: 4-850 SHP (trial): 173,808
Speed (trial): 32.72 kts SHP (design): 150,000
Speed (design): 33.4 kts AT (displacement): 33,148 tons
Endurance (service): 1,150mi @ 20kts Endurance (design): 12,000mi @ 15kts

Armaments

Main Battery: 9-12in/50 caliber in 3x3 mounts Secondary Battery: 12-5in/38 caliber in 6x2 mounts
AA Battery: 56-40mm (14x4)  34-20mm guns  

Fire Control

Main Guns: 2 Mk 34 (12in) Secondary Guns: 2 Mk 37 (5in)
AA Guns: Mk 57 (40mm)  

Protection

Belt: 9.5 inches (sloped 10 degrees) Bomb Deck: 1.4 inches STS
Armor Deck: 3.25 inches and 2.8 inches on 1inch STS Bulkheads: 10.6 inches
Barbettes: 11 inches, 12 inches, and 13 inches Gunhouses: 12.8 inches/5 inches/6 inches and 5.25 inches/5.25 inches
Secondary Battery: 1inch/0.75 inch Conning Tower: 9 inches/4 inches top/ 5 inch tube

Crew

Complement: 163 Officers /1,797 Crew  

The Kit

The Classic Warships 1:350th Scale USS Alaska Heavy Cruiser was released in back in 1999. I remember picking up my kit at the IPMS convention in Orlando Florida personally from Steve Wiper. As I opened the box for the first time, Steve mentioned that this kit was his "Frankenstein". I looked in the box and immediately understood why he said this.

This kit is a monster. A really big monster.

This kit is one big chunk of resin. After opening the box, I closely examined the upper hull and the detail was incredible. Steve went to the trouble of casting the upper hull without any of the superstructure cast in place. This will make painting the deck much easier later on. Both hull sections had small amount of overpour that would require sanding with no air pockets or bubbles in either casting. Laying the upper hull on top of the lower hull (my kit is a full hull kit) I noticed that they mated very well with a minimum amount of shrinkage. This is very surprising since this is a long and large piece of resin. The low hull did have some warpage on the ends that would need to be addressed before assembly.

I put the two pieces down on the table and proceeded to open the bags containing the resin parts. The main superstructure was cast in two main pieces: the forward section containing the bridge, citadel, and hangers and the aft section containing the funnel and aft directors. These parts were cleanly cast with no air bubbles present.

Of course, like all modelers, I simply could not resist the urge to dry fit some parts together. The forward superstructure fit around the second turret barbette and was properly aligned with the hull through the use of small register marks cast onto the main deck. The citadel and platforms were well cast with everything locking together like a jigsaw puzzle. The aft superstructure aligned to the deck using the same type of register marks. The parts for the aft superstructure fit well together. All of the superstructure parts were cleanly cast and had no bubbles and a minimum amount of overpour. The smaller deck parts were cast on thin resin wafers and require you to sand away to the wafer to release the parts. 

The 12" and 5" turrets are cast in resin with white metal barrels. The 12" barrels had the blast bags cast in them which is a nice touch. The 5" guns were really nice and includes the catch nets for the expended 5 shell cases. The 40mm and 20mm AA guns were the usual cast metal with photo-etch shields.

The 3 photo-etch frets included with the kit are what turns this model from ordinary to "Frankenstein". The frets included such goodies as the catch netting for the 5" guns, cable reels, floater net baskets, the radars, aircraft catapults, 40mm clip racks for the gun tubs, spotting racks, and row after row of railings.

A large book of instructions is included with the kit as well as a nice 1:350th scale drawing of USS Alaska and her MS 32/1d Camouflage pattern.

Photographs of the Alaska Kit

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Stern Detail
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Middeck Detail
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Fordeck Detail
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Bow Detail
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White Metal
Details
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White Metal
Details
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40mm and 20mm
Gun Tubs
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Fore & Aft
Superstructures
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12" & 6" Guns
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Superstrucutre
Details
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White Metal
Details
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Decal Set
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Stern Upper
& Lower Hull
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Middeck Upper
& Lower Hull
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Foredeck Upper
& Lower Hull
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Bow Upper
& Lower Hull
 

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Photo-Etch Fret #1

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Instructions
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Instructions
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Instructions
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Instructions
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Photo-Etch Fret #2

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Photo-Etch Fret #3

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Instructions
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Building the kit:

Dateline: Fall 1999

Before I started to build this kit, I gathered up some resources that would help me in building this kit. The kit comes with a very nice 1:350th scale drawing of USS ALASKA and includes the camouflage pattern for ALASKA's MS 32/1d pattern. Since I wanted larger and more detailed drawings then what came with the kit,  I turned to the usual source: The Floating Drydock. I ordered the ALASKA plans set# TFW CB1/16 and Camouflage Sheet #CF-76 which is the MS32/7c scheme for the USS Guam. I also ordered a few photos of USS Guam from Floating Drydock's photographic catalog.

The package arrived several weeks later from The Floating Drydock. The plans were very good 1/16th scale drawings of USS ALASKA. There were 5 large sheets which showed the profile, top-down view, and deck levels and various details; exactly what I needed. The photographs were several shots of USS Guam as commissioned and showed the camouflage pattern nicely. The Camouflage sheet, however, was way too dark to clearly show the separation between the Ocean Gray Patterns and Dull Black Patterns. Since I wanted something a little more clear, I made a few phone calls to certain friends of mine (you know who you are) and obtained a excellent copy of the original camouflage sheet of MS 32/7c pattern for USS GUAM. With all my documentation in-hand I was ready to tackle this project.


USS Guam MS 32/7c Camouflage Pattern 1944
 

Vertical Surfaces: 
Light Gray 5-L
Ocean Gray 5-O
Dull Black
Horizontal Surfaces:
Deck Blue 20-B
Ocean Gray 5-0

I started building the kit by tackling the biggest chore first; namely sanding the upper and lower hull halves. The method I use to grind down hulls is to take a 12x12 piece of pressboard and duct tape 2ea 4x12 square pieces of 150 grit sandpaper on one side and 220 grit sandpaper on the opposite side. This makes a nice sanding board that you can rest on your lap and slowly sand-away the overpour on large resin objects.

The upper hull required some sanding to remove the small amount of overpour.  Using the 150 grit side, I slowly ground away most of the excess overpour on the underside of the upper hull. When most of the overpour was gone and I was very close to where the actual hull started, I flipped the board over and used the 220 grit sandpaper until all of the overpour was gone and the underside of the upper hull was nice and flat.

The lower hull was a different story. The lower hull had a bow in it that sat low in the middle and both ends slightly raised. If the bow is slight, then you can simply sand the bow out of the hull. But this bow was too much to simply sand out without the hull looking strange. So I sanded most of the overpour off the lower hull without altering the shape of the hull. My objective was to remove as much material as possible without cutting into the actual hull.  After I removed as much material as I dared,  got out my large cookie sheet and headed for the oven.

Yes, the oven.

I preheated the oven to 150 degrees for about 30 minutes. When the oven is nice and warm I take the lower hull and place it face up on my large cookie sheet. The reason why I use a cookie sheet is to help the resin parts soak up the heat in a more even manner. It also makes it easier to move the piece around once it is heated. I placed the lower hull on the cookie sheet and slid it gently into the oven.

A minor problem arises: It doesn't fit.

The hull is simply too long for my oven. I try going corner to corner but it still sticks out of the oven. This means I cannot close the door. Normally, I slide the hull in the oven, close the door, and walk away for 20 minutes. But since I need to leave the door open, I will have to sit there and flip the hull around every few minutes. I do this so I can heat the part as evenly as possible. It takes about 40 minutes before the hull is ready to be bent back to its normal shape. You can tell when the resin is ready to bend if you can easily bend it with your  hands. If it resists your bending, it is still too cool in the center and will not keep its new shape. When attempting to bend the hull, use a pair of oven mitts since the part will become very hot and you will burn your hands if you are not careful. With my hull nice and heatsoaked it bends easily. Once I bend it to the right shape, I place it on the counter and stack books on top of it to prevent it from moving around during cooling. It will take a large sized hull about an hour to completely cool so be patient. If the hull is still warped after cooling, simply start over, reheat, and rebend.

Once the hull is cooled and in its newly corrected shape, I sand the remaining overpour off the it. I keep checking it against the upper hull half to ensure that they fit together snugly without a gap between them. Once I am satisfied with the fit, I take the lower hull and place it flat side down on the display base the completed shipmodel will be attached onto. I mark in pencil the points where the model is dead center on the display base. Once this is done, I use masking tape and secure the lower hull to the display base. By attaching the lower hull to the display base before you drill, you will be guaranteed that the mounting holes on the ship are perfectly aligned with the mounting holes in the display base. Once the hull is secure and completely immobile, I carefully mark 3 equal distant spots on the hull for holes that will be drilled into the hull AND through the display base.  These 3 holes will be the mounting points for self-tapping wood screws that will permanently secure the shipmodel to the display base. I use three holes on larger ship models to prevent the model from sagging or bowing in middle of the model from excess heat or cold in the future (thanks for that tip Steve Wiper!). I then proceed to drill holes that are slightly smaller in diameter than the self tapping screws. This will give the screws something to bite into when you attach the model to the display base.

After the mounting holes are drilled, I glue the hulls together with a two-part epoxy. You can also use ACC cement if you wish.  For a hull this large however, I want some time to move it around so that everything lines-up correctly before the glue sets. Epoxy cement gives me more working time than ACC cement. Once the two hull-halves are aligned correctly, set it aside and allow the glue to cure. When the epoxy is cured, take the same drill bit you used to drill your mounting holes and re-drill the holes, this time into the upper hull.   Be careful not to drill too deep because the last thing you want to do it to completely drill through the entire hull!!  By making the holes a little deeper, you will help the model by allowing the mounting screws to bite into both halves of the hull which will add strength to the hull halves.

I now turn my attention to the other resin parts. Some parts have a small amount of overpour to remove, while other parts are cast onto thin wafers of resin. The overpour parts are easy to deal with since you can cut at the base of the part with a razor saw and carefully work your way through the part till the excess is removed. The wafers are a slightly different story. In most kits, the wafer that some parts are cast onto is very thin and can be easily removed by sanding it away until the parts separate. The wafers for the delicate parts of my kit is simply too thick to sand off in the normal fashion.  So, in order to get the parts off, I reached into my toolbox and pul out my set of  Zona Razor Saws.  I have several of these in various sizes from coarse to very fine cuts. The more teeth a saw has; the finer the cut. I use the very fine saws on delicate parts so that I remove a minimum amount of material under the part without damaging it. I took a pair of nippers and cut-away the excess material from the wafer. Once I got close to the part, I would switch to the saw and cut just below the base of the part.. I took my time cutting all the parts off the wafers and making sure I was not cutting into the part I will need for the model. Once I removed the part from the wafer, I gently sand each piece to remove any excess material and clean up the part. As each part was cut, sanded, and cleaned, it went into one of several bins; one for superstructure parts, the other for detail parts. When I was finished with the resin parts, I added all of the White Metal parts to my bins. This does two things; 1. To accurately count parts so I know I have enough to complete the kit. 2. To check each part for damage, miscasting, etc.

Now, back to the hull.

No matter how well you sand the two hull halves, you will end-up with a seam that needs to be dealt with. I also noticed when I assembled the two halves, the port-side armor belt did not line-up correctly. Fixing the armor belt was easy and required the use of a X-acto #17 chisel blade. I chiseled away the extra material until the armor belt lined-up at each end. With that minor chore out of the way, I turned my attention to the seam forming the two halves of the hull.

I use Bondo Automotive Putty to fill in the seam. This comes in a large tube and costs around $4.00 Dollars (US) at your local Automotive Parts store. To apply the putty, I use my set of putty knives I purchased from The Toolman. I stuff as much putty into the seam as I can and let it start to ooze out. I work my way down the side of the hull, filling the seam as much as I can. Once I finished the first trip around the hull, I use another putty knife to remove the excess and feather the putty out. Once I finish this task, I set the hull aside and allow the putty to completely dry which takes 4-6 hours.
 

While the putty is drying, I turn my attention to the photo-etch frets. I paint my photo-etch frets before I use them because it is much easier to touch-up a part once it is in place then to try to paint it afterwards. Also, by spray painting the frets, you do not clog-up the fine details. Since the ships was to be painted in a three-toned camouflage scheme of Light Gray 5-L, Ocean Gray 5-O, and Dull Black #13, I picked Light Gray 5-L for the overall color of the photo-etch frets. Why Light Gray ? Because it is easier to paint a dark color over a light color then the other way around.

I mounted the frets on a large piece of cardboard using strips of tape to hold them down. I mixed a bottle of Pollyscale USN Light Gray using a 75%-25% mix of paint and water. I applied the paint in two thin coats allowing about 1 hour of drying time between coats. I also help the drying process along by using a portable hair dryer set on low heat. After the frets were sufficiently coated I set them aside to dry overnight.

I then took the resin detail and superstructure parts and attached them to a piece of cardboard using double-sided tape.  I sprayed all of these parts with the same Light Gray 5-L paint I used on the photo-etch frets. after these were all painted, they were set aside to dry overnight with the painted frets.

Returning my attention to the hull, I sanded the excess putty from the seam using a medium grit sandpaper. Once I had the excess removed, I switched down to finer grits of paper until the puttied area were nice and smooth. After this was completed, I took a blob of Bondo Putty and thinned it down using Testor's Liquid Cement. I applied this mixure along the seam again but this time I took my time and feathered it out even more then I did the first time. I do this so that I can fill-in any mistakes I made during sanding and to make the seam completely vanish. With the thinned putty applied, I put hull aside for the evening.

The next day, I sprayed the other side of the photo-etch frets and resin parts with Light Gray and set them aside to dry. I also performed my final sanding of the hull and checked it for imperfections. Finding no other mistakes in the puttying, I was ready to paint the hull.

Before I start to paint the hull, I attach the rudder and the propeller shafts to the bottom of the hull since they are painted the same color as the underside of the hull.  I then proceed to paint the hull bottom using Pollyscale Red Oxide paint (a railroad color). I like this color because it gives a nice reddish-brown color that looks very close to the Anti-Fouling red paint used on US Navy ships. I spray the paint just past the waterline so that I have more than enough coverage and can check for imperfections in the puttied seam. Since the Pollyscale oxide Red is a nice opaque color, I can apply it in a single coat that covers everything and gives me a flat finish; just right. Once the paint dries completely after 1 hour, I notice several imperfections in the puttied seam. I apply a thin coat of putty over the imperfections, re-sand and touch up the paint.

Once the Oxide Red paint is completely dry, I mask the lower hull off with 3M Automotive Masking Tape just below the waterline. I take some 1/16th Masking Tape and use it as a mask covering for the boot topping that will be applied later. My next color for the hull is Pollyscale Light Gray which is spayed over the entire upper hull sides. While the paint is drying, I take out a thick piece of glass I use to cut templates from masking tape. I lay wide strips of masking tape onto the glass and cut the masks that will be used to cover parts the Light Gray paint I just applied. When the Light Gray paint is dry, I apply the masks over the paint I do not want covered by the other two colors I will need to apply for this camouflage scheme.

With the masks in place, I apply my second color to the hull: Pollyscale 5-O Ocean Gray. This is sprayed roughly where the camouflage pattern is supposed to be on the finished model. I also spray the same color to the deck since it will end up with a pattern of Deck Blue 20-B and Ocean Gray 5-O. While this paint is drying, I repeat cutting the masks on my glass; this time for the the Ocean Gray masks. I apply my Ocean Gray masks on the hull sides (The Deck Blue will be painted by hand later). With my last color as Dull Black (my darkest color), I remove the mask I used on the boot topping since this is to be painted Dull Black as well. I then take Pollyscale Locomotive Black and sprayed the remaining unmasked areas of the hull sides and the boot topping.  I put the hull aside and allowed it to dry.
 

After returning from an afternoon with my son, I went down the the workroom to remove the masking tape and see how well my paint job came out. I started to slowly started to peel-away the tape.

The paint started to lift off with the tape. Not just little bits here and there but in big sheets. The more tape I peeled off, the more paint lifted off with it.

The hull was complete mess. Of the 4 colors I applied, every one of them lifted off. Some places it lifted off completely, other areas survived just fine. I took my fingernail and tested the resin detail parts  I painted. The paint came off easily as I scratched it. If I tried to tape these for masking, they would be ruined too. Since the paint was all water-based Acrylics, once they set, there is no way of removing them with any kind of solvent.

I suddenly realized in my zeal to build a model of my favorite ship, I forgot one of the most basic rules when working with resin kits:

"Wash all of the parts to remove the release agent before attempting to paint the model".

The screams coming from my cellar could be heard for miles.
 


Dateline: Spring 2002

Fast Forward 3 years.

I had just finished building 5 different 1:350th scale modern USN Submarines from Blue Water Navy. The models came out very well and were already in place at the Shipmodel Museum onboard the USS Salem. I had just received my first batch of White Ensign Models "Colourcoats" paints and I was looking for a suitable model to try them out on. I looked around the boxes of unbuilt kits to find something that would be fun to test the paints and build at the same time. Since the paints I got from WEM were USN WWII colors, I would have to find a model in that era to try them out on. As I rummaged through boxes from Blue Water Navy, Commanders Models, White Ensign, and Classic Warships, I found the box for the USS Alaska kit. As I opened the box, a cold chill came over me as the horrible memories of that painting disaster were refreshed in my mind.
 

Then my mind started thinking. Dare I attempt to salvage this wreck from the depths of failed models ?

I looked at the parts in the box. Hmmmm... The photoetch is ok. Using my fingernail, the paint on the smaller parts scraped off with ease. The photo-etch looks ok and the paint did not peel off at all. If all the parts are like this, It wouldn't be too hard to salvage this kit.

Lets see what the hull looks like again.

I move to the failed projects section of my workbench and there it is, buried under a few magazine articles, plastic bags, and surrounded by various bit of flotsam. I pick-up the hull, blow three years of accumulated dust off it, and cautiously examine it. Running my fingernail across the paint, I notice that some of it comes off without much effort; some is stuck fast to the hull. In order to get all of it off, I would need to sand it off. Fortunately for me, I did not paint most of the deck and where I did applied the Ocean Gray paint, it seems to be holding ok. I hand paint most of decks anyways so I will not need to worry too much about lifting paint there.

I decide to give it one more try.

I first attempt to remove the prop shafts so that I would not damage them when I sand. Since the mounts are White Metal, they pop-off the hull without becoming damaged. Now that the hull is "clean" and I can get to work. I start by using a 220 grit sandpaper and a good strong arm. The paint that would not stick is coming off in big chucks which is speeding up the process. After about 2 hours, I've got about 1/3 of the hull sanded down. After serveral days, I finally get the hull completely cleaned of old paint. The smaller detail parts take longer. I sit and watch TV while tackling each part and removing as much paint as I can. The parts are more difficult to clean but with a couple of good Dental picks, I can get into the crevasses and other tight areas. It takes me another week to clean up the detail parts. While cleaning these parts, I keep asking myself if it is worth the hassle to make this model. The only reason why I continue is that this model represents my favorite ship and I want to give it another chance.

After all the parts are cleaned of old paint, I take them all to the sink and thoroughly wash them in warm-soapy water. I use a toothbrush to thoroughly scrub each part. The scene in my bathroom looks like the sink exploded and vomited up parts of the ship and scattered them everywhere.  I let all the parts air-dry for a day and flipping them from time to time to ensure all the water evaporates from every piece.

I am now ready to make attempt #2 at painting the ship.

This time, I am going to use White Ensign's Colourcoats paints for the primary colors. I will use WEM US10 1942 Revised Deck Blue 20-B, US06 1941 Ocean Gray, US13 5-L Light Gray. At the time I painted the ship, WEM Colourcoats did not have Black or Anti-Fouling Red in their paint line. So I used Pollyscale Black and Pollyscale Oxide Red in their place. I mixed up the paints and cut the WEM Colourcoats 50% with Lacquer Thinner. The Pollyscale paint was shot straight from the bottle.  I shot the Oxide Red first on the lower hull and allowed it to dry for a day before masking it. This time I wanted to make sure I did not experience the horrors of what I went through 3 years ago. So I performed a test: I masked off the Oxide Red completely. Then I left the tape on for a day and them removed it to see if any of the paint peeled off with the tape. It survived the test and none of the paint lifted. Whew!

I remasked the Oxide Red and airbrushed the hull overall with WEM Colourcoats 5-L Light Gray 1943. I masked the light Gray areas off and airbrushed the WEM Colourcoats Ocean Gray. After I let the paint dry for a few days, I removed the tape from the Light Gray masked areas.

The paint held fast to the hull.

Encouraged by this, I masked off all the Light and Ocean Gray and airbrushed the Black. After a day, I removed all the masking tape. No paint lifted off.

Success.

I finished airbrushing the Superstructure, Photo-etch, and detail parts the same way as described above. This time all the paint held fast to the parts.

The Ship and all its parts were painted successfully!


Dateline: Fall 2002

Soon after I painted the ship, the weather warmed-up and the last thing you want to do is stay locked up in the house especially after a cold winter.  This time, instead of sitting in the dead pile waiting to be damaged, The Alaska Kit was carefully wrapped and placed back in the box with all the other parts, drawings, photographs, and instructions. I intended to get back to building the kit sometime during the summer, but it was way too hot to be modeling let alone staying indoors.

As the weather cooled, I finally decided to make a run at finishing this kit once and for-all. I would work on nothing else but this kit until it was completed.
 

I cleared the workbench, got the box out of its hiding place, and went to work. The first thing I did was to take a recount of all the parts. Everything was there and waiting for me to build. I took the hull and secured it to the display base. This makes holding the kit much easier since you now have a stable platform to work with. With this complete, I proceeded to follow the instructions that came with the kit. I first read the instructions several times in order to plan my attack on the parts. I figured out the build order for all of the subassemblies and what could be glued without interfering with painting later on.

The first step was to paint all the decking WEM Colourcoats Deck Blue 20-B and WEM Colourcoats 5-O Ocean Gray. The main deck of the ship does not have any of the superstructure cast in-place so it makes it much easier to paint the deck. I followed the scheme on my Camouflage Design Sheet for MS 32/7c for USS GUAM. It took 2 coats of hand brushing to cover the deck with a nice opaque coat of paint in both colors. While the deck was drying, I proceeded to paint the decks on all of the Superstructure parts.

Next came the camouflage pattern on the superstructure and gun tubs. I dry-fitted the Superstructure parts together and tacked them together with Elmer's Glue. I then proceeded to apply the Ocean Gray patterns to the parts and then the Black. This took quite a bit of time because of the complex curves and shapes that needed to be painted. I would paint the rough pattern in first. Then, after the paints are completely dry, go back and sharpen-up the lines between colors. For anyone who has painted a model in multiple colors knows that you need to keep repainting over and over in order to correct the mistakes from the last coat. It took me about 5 trips through each color before I was satisfied with the results.

 

Detail Parts.

The first thing I needed to do was to assemble all of the detail parts that are to be added to the subassemblies. To give you an idea how detailed some of these parts are, here's a breakdown of some of the detail parts:

SK Radar: 12 parts 12in/50 Main Guns: 10 parts x3
Mk 38 Director: 7 parts x2ea 5in/38 Secondary Guns: 5 parts x6
Mk 37 Director: 11 parts x2ea 40mm AA Guns: 5 parts x14
Catapults: 9 parts x2ea 20mm AA Guns: 2 parts x34
Boat Cranes: 21 parts x2ea Cable Reels: 5 parts x10

Assembling these detail parts takes a lot of time and patience. I would highly recommend that you purchase a "Hold and Fold" bending tool in order to build this kit. There is A LOT of photo-etch to fold, bend, and build in this kit. Having a Hold and Fold tool will save you an enormous amount of time and headaches trying to get the parts to the correct shape. You will also need tweezers, clamps, and above all; patience. You will be rewarded with some of the best looking etched parts in the business! Here is some tips to assemble some of the more complicated parts:

SK Radar:

The SK Radar is by far the hardest part to assemble since it has extremely delicate photo-etch parts and requires a steady hand to correctly assemble. Start with adding the lattice support to the rear of the antenna. It takes some gentle bending of the photo-etch to get it to fit properly in place. When I found I had it properly bent, I touched the entire assembly into a puddle of ACC cement and placed it on the antenna backface. Next up is to add a small piece of rod the holds the assembly to the platform. Glue it to the base of the antenna then clamp the rod in a small vice or other clamping device to hold the antenna stable. Then add the small antennas to the face of the main antenna. Use non-filling ACC cement in this step so that you do not foul the delicate antenna face.

 

 

Mk 38 and Mk 37 Antennas:

These two directors look harder to build than they really are. The Mk 38 Antenna is easier to build than the Mk 37. Building the Mk 38 will prepare you for the Mk 37 so I would recommend you build this one first. The Mk37 is harder because you need to get the bracing spaced properly before you add the antennas. The antennas will take some careful bending to get in the proper curved shape. Once this is done, place it aside and build the Mk 37 antenna support on top of the Mk 37 director. When this is finished, add the antenna to the antenna base.

 

 


Boat Cranes:

The Boat Cranes are almost as hard to build since it takes a lot of folding and bending to get the crane to look correct. The hardest part of this assembly is to bend the crossbraces. I found that if I bent the crossbraces, it distorted the bracing and damaged it. I ended up cutting out each crossbrace, fold over the rest of the assembly, then insert the crossbraces one at a time. This made it easier to fold the crane and gave me more control over how the crossbraces fit inside the main crane bracing. Once the crane was folded and pulleys added, I added some wire to represent the cables for the crane. This added more detail to the crane and improved the looks. While the crane was drying, I assembled the Crane Tower. The one thing I noticed with this is that there are separate handrails on the photo-etch fret for the Crane Tower. I only noticed this after I had already assembled one Crane Tower using the generic railings. I removed the generic rails and replaced them with the correct railings.

 

Catapults:

These are hard to build simply because you need to fold a single piece of photo-etch into the entire catapult base. If you do not fold it correctly, it will come out warped and not align properly. Once you build the base, turn the assembly over and add the catwalks. Note that on the Alaska Class CB, there is a port and starboard catapult unlike on other large ships. Make sure you build them with this in mind or else one of your catapults will not fit when you attach it to the catapult tower.

 

 

Cable reels:

A nice tip here is to glue the core for the cable reel sides then use .004 thread to wind the reel. Insert a .008 piece of brass wire through the reel and base to hold the assembly together.

Subassemblies.

I broke the main superstructure parts into 5 subassemblies: The Forward Superstructure, the Aft Superstructure, The Smokestack, Citadel, and Main Deck.


Smokestack: 44 parts

I started with the Smokestack first since I wanted this to be thoroughly dried when mated to the Aft Superstructure. I added the resin platforms and any white-metal parts. After gluing these into place, I added the photo-etched details. Most of the photo-etch for the smokestack is at the top platform surrounding the exhaust stacks. I then built the masts for the radars and yardarms. Next came the handrails for all the platforms. The final step was to add the ropes for the aft flagbags. For rope, I use .006 Brass wire instead of Nylon. I find its easier to bend the wire and have it hold its shape then to make Nylon behave. Added the lines and glued them into place using ACC Cement. Once the smokestack was complete, I touched-up the paint till I was satisfied with the results. The finished subassembly was placed in a safe location so not to be damaged while I work on the other 3 subassemblies.

 

Forward Superstructure: 28 parts

The forward Superstructure required mostly handrails, some photo-etch, and a few white metal bits. This was a very easy build compared to the smokestack. In about 2 hours it was placed next to the smokestack; ready to be added to the final assembly. An interesting detail on this subassembly is the ready clips for the 40mm gun tubs. Steve found a way to create a photo-etch insert that would look like 40mm ammo clips that surround the inside of the gun tub; nice touch.

 

 

Citadel: 90 parts

Next up was the Citadel. This subassembly was the toughest to build due to the fact it has multiple platforms, lots of handrails, and numerous photo-etched detail parts. I tackled this subassembly one deck at a time and slowly built it up; adding new details as it grew in height. Once the citadel was finished, I had to be extremely careful in handling it because there were so many delicate parts sticking out from all angles; one wrong move and I would crush hours worth of work.  Once this subassembly was complete, I added a completed Mk 38, Mk 37 Director, the SK Antenna Assembly, and finally, the SG Antenna Assembly. Once the Citadel was completed, it was mated to the Forward Superstructure. The final step was to add the ropes for the forward flagbags. For rope, I use .006 Brass wire instead of Nylon. I find its easier to bend the wire and have it hold its shape then to make Nylon behave. Added the lines and glued them into place using ACC Cement.
 

 

Aft Superstructure: 52 parts

The last major subassembly to tackle was the Aft Superstructure. This section was slightly harder to build than the forward structure. Most of the parts were resin like in the forward structure. There are a few interesting details here like the boat cradles and the crane storage racks.  After this subassembly was finished, I touched-up the camouflage paint and made sure all the glue marks were covered.  I then mated the Smokestack subassembly to the Aft Superstructure to form one large subassembly.  Once this subassembly was complete, I added a completed Mk 38 and Mk 37 Director.

 

 

Main Deck: 78 parts plus rope reels.

There are numerous small parts to add to the main deck such as vents, chocks, anchors, winches, capstans, cable reels, gun tubs, etc. These should be added before the attaching the superstructures to the deck. The hardest part here is the bow gun tub. There are small photo-etch supports that have to be added to the underside of the tub. These supports need to be added in the correct order to match the slop of the deck. If you add them in the wrong order, the tub will not sit properly on the deck.


 

Guns.

12"/50 Main Guns: 10 parts ea x3 plus floater baskets.

The 3ea 12" Main guns were built first. These are a fairly easy build since there are only a few parts to add. First you need to glue the ladders into place on the turret faces. Next add the gun barrels to the turret. The gun barrels already have the blast bags cast in place so you don't need to worry about adding them later. The last item to add  is the rangefinders to each of the turret sides. As a final touch, I added floater catch baskets to the roof of turrets #1 and #3. USS Guam carried these during her work-ups in the Atlantic and can easily be seen in photographs.

 


 

5"/38 Secondary Guns: 5 parts ea x6 plus floater baskets

The 6ea 5"/38 guns are fairly simple to build . Simply add the Gun Barrels (2ea) to each of the gunhouses and you are done. If you are building Guam as commissioned, you will need to add 2ea 5" shell catch baskets to the rear of each gunhouse. Another detail to add is a floater catch basket to the front of each turret. Both of these items were removed later on since they interfered with the traversing of the gunhouse during action.

 


 

40mm AA Guns: 5 parts ea x14.

The hardest in building the 40mm AA guns is bending the gun shield around the base of the mount. Classic Warships made this easier to do by adding bend lines to the photo-etch. This makes it much easier to bend the shield in the correct location and get the shape correct. once you bend the shield to the correct shape, it is attached to the base using a drop of ACC cement at 3 points: one in the front and one each on both sides. After the glue is dried, Added the railing to the rear of the mount. Last step it to add 2ea guns to each mount.

 

 
 

20mm AA Guns 2 parts ea x34.

The easiest way to build these are to add the gun shield to the front of the gun using a drop of ACC cement. Once the glue is dry, cut the gun off the tree at the base. Once you cut the gun, grab the base of the gun with a pair of tweezers and file the underside of the gun base flat.

 

 

 

 

Final Assembly.

I add all the guns to hull and superstructures with the exception of the #2 12 inch Main Gun. The next step is to add the handrails to the deck edge. There are 2ea handrails that are designed for the bow of the ships. These handrails have a slight curve to them making them easier to attach to the deck without bowing in the wrong direction. Attach the handrails to the outer edge of the deck lip using ACC cement. A good tip here is to use small sections instead of long sections. This will help the handrails stay on the model without popping off due to temperature changes.  I start with the bow and work my way towards the stern on both sides of the ship. After this is completed, I add the rope chocks behind the railings.

Next up is adding the 40mm AA guns and 20mm guns. I paint the gun shields to match the surrounding camouflage color before I glue the gun into place. After the guns are added, I glue the directors into place and paint them to match the surrounding camouflage color.

The After Superstructure is now glued into place using ACC cement. Once this is complete, I add the forward Superstructure and secure it into place with ACC Cement. The #2 12" turret is added after securing the forward Superstructure in place. The last item to add is the catapults to each side of the ship. Since there is a left and right catapult on this ship, be sure you place the correct one on the correct side.

After all the parts are secured in place, I touched-up any remaining paint and added a white 48 scale inch #2 to each side of the bow behind the anchor. I set the model aside to dry overnight. 

The next day, I made up a bottle of future mixed with some Tamiya X21 flat finish. I tested it on a spare piece of styrene to ensure I had the correct level of flatness. I adjusted the mix slightly since I wanted the model really flat and sprayed the entire model with two coats. This clear coat will hide all brush and glue marks on your model and seal it with an hard and durable acrylic finish.

The final step in this model was to give the display base a coat of polish, add a felt pad to each underside corner to prevent scratches. The Ship is done.
 

Notes and a few afterthoughts.

This model was a real challenge to build. It is really for the experienced modeler and you should have a few good sized resin kits under your belt before taking on a project of this size. The hardest thing for me on this kit had to be assembling all the photo-etched details. There are hundreds of tiny parts that require a great deal of patience and a steady hand to master. I did mess-up a few parts such as one of the Mk 8 radars and the port catapult. When Classic Warships restarts their kit line, I will order another complete set of photo-etch just to fix the mistakes. The remaining photo-etch I do not use will go into the special spare parts bin I have just for unused photo-etch  parts. I keep all the frets I use including the empty frets. These I use when I need do make a gun shield or a part that requires some bending like a wall or support platform. Since photo-etch fret trees are all sizes and widths, they make excellent scratch building material.

Another important note is to be sure to prep your parts before painting. This was the biggest mistake I made in building this kit. A simple task I forgot to perform almost made me toss this kit on the unbuilt pile forever. Be sure to wash and clean all your resin parts before painting. I never have had a problem with photo-etch so I do not wash it. A good tip for you is to take your time and think before you dive headfirst into this kit. Your patience will be rewarded tenfold.

Buy a Hold and Fold photo-etch bending tool. I bought mine from the Small Shop ( http://www.thesmallshop.com ) and I cannot tell you how much of a timesaver this tool is. It takes all the nastiness out of getting a good sharp bend out of your photo-etch parts. It also saves a considerable amount of time working with your photo-etch since it allows you to make multiple bends using a single tool. I bought the 4" folding tool for $40.00 at the 2002 IMPS Nationals and the guys at The Small Shop threw-in the cutting set free! I will end up buying the Extra reach toolhead and the 8" workstation when I get a chance. If there is a tool that is a "must have" for a shipmodeler, this tool is it. I recommend you go and buy one right away.

I used to use Pollyscale water-based paints for my ship models since they were the easy to find and fairly close to the correct color. The biggest problem I found with these paints is that they have a nasty habit of clogging your airbrush on a regular basis.

White Ensign Models http://www.whitensignmodels.com  produces their line of Colourcoats paints which I use these exclusively now. They are dead-on accurate, easy to work with, and do not clog my brush. You can even hand-brush these colors and get excellent coverage. WEM has now released aircraft aircraft colors as part of the paint line and I will be using them on my next project: Blue Water Navy's 1:350th USS Lexington kit. This will be my first shipmodel kit to be painted 100% with WEM Colourcoats.  You can get these paints from many places including Synder & Short ( http://www.shipcamouflage.com ), Pacific Front Hobbies ( http://www.pacificfront.com ), or direct from White Ensign Models ( http://www.whitensignmodels.com ). If you use these paints, be sure to buy more than you need. The last thing you want to do is run out of paint at a critical moment! WEM's SR-71 Delivery craft ensures that your paint will arrive before you think you need them. For a review of these paints, see my article at: http://www.steelnavy.com/colourcoats.htm .

After looking at this kit and seeing the work that Classic Warships performed to make this kit a reality, I have decided I will buy a second kit when Classic Warships restarts kit manufacturing in 2003. I will build USS Alaska in her MS 32/1d paint scheme so I can display both of these ships side-by-side. In my opinion, the Alaska Class CBs were the most beautiful ships ever built by the US Navy and this kit shows it in every way possible.  The Classic Warships kit is a perfect model if you want to properly recreate the beauty of the Alaska Class Cruisers.


John R. Sheridan
January 2003