Revell 1/96 USS Constitution
KIT #: 0398
PRICE: $ 69.95
DECALS:  none
REVIEWER: Dietmar Carstensen
NOTES:  

HISTORY

The Constitution was in service of the US Navy for about 80 years, from 1798 until 1879.

So she took part of a long period of American history.

She sailed first on July 22nd, 1798. Than she began serving as a flagship of a little squadron in the Caribbean sea.

From 1803 until 1807 she fought against north African states in  the Mediterranean. From 1809 until 1812 she was the flagship of the North Atlantic squadron.

The Constitution had here most excited period during the war against the Royal Navy in 1812 until 1815. After her successful battle with the English 38 cannon frigate the name "Old Ironsides" was given to her, because her hull withstood the cannonballs of the English frigate during the battle.

On February 20th, 1815, the Constitution fought against two English frigates at the same time and conquered both ships (35 dead seamen on both enemy ships, 4 dead seamen on the Constitution). After this battle the Constitution was called widely as unconquerable.

Her wartime period now came to an end. But the Constitution again served in the Mediterranean, and from 1839 she sailed in the Pacific Ocean.

From 1844 until 1846 the Constitution sailed around the world.

During the Civil War (1861-1865) she sailed as a training frigate for non-commissioned officers and until 1878 she was a training ship for midshipmen.

1878 the Constitution sailed the goods for the World Exhibition to Le Havre. She stayed at  Le Havre for nine months, waiting there to ship the goods back to Boston after the Exhibition was finished.

That was her last long voyage. Her carrier ended 1879 at Portsmouth. 

THE KIT

Revell's Constitution in 1/96 is a very good kit.

It is possible to build a beautiful and very detailed model straight out of the box.

The rigging plans provided with my kit, already bought in 1992, are very detailed and understandable.

The modeller will learn much about the standing and running rigging of a sailing ship.

The kit contains plastic sails, which have a fine and realistic structure. Depending on the  painting method it is possible to create very realistic looking sails, which are blown by the wind.  

CONSTRUCTION

 

Weathering of the sails have been done here by using extremely thinned acrylic paint from

Tamiya. Yellow, brown and white with a high amount acrylic thinner have been mixed to a dirty brown-coloured substance and have been applied to the sails by using a thick paintbrush.

Depending on the effect you prefer to create sails, which like old and weathered, you can apply more paint on the edges and corners of the sails. Before this mixture begins to dry,

rub it on the surface of the sail by using a piece of soft paper until you get the desired effect.

I decided to show the ship under full sail and therefore rigged also the studding sails.

 The ratlines are pre-shaped from thin, flexible plastic and have to be cut into the appropriate dimensions before placing. 

The ratlines have to be tied up at the masttops and on deck at the hull deadeyes, the topmast and topgallant ratlines corresponding at crosstrees/topmast crosstrees and on mast top deadeyes/topmast crosstrees.

The plastic-made deadeyes look like of rope if painted carefully with the corresponding rope colour.

 The ship has been built with all the parts the kit provided. However it was important for me to  add some extra equipment which I built from scratch, such as anchor buoys, cannonballs, buckets for fuses, wooden barrels and additional rigging of the cannons on the upper deck.

The nets on the rails I made from synthetic mesh instead of using thread as advised in the instruction sheet.

The cannonballs were sanding from little plastic pearls (normally used for necklaces). The anchor buoys and buckets for fuses were made from Evergreen styrene-strips.

I advise to build the topgallant masts from wood (scratch). From plastic they are very weak due to their small diameter. This is a problem during rigging.

I did not make the effort to build the topgallant masts from wood afterwards. By rigging these masts tight from fore and aft I was able to avoid bending them.

On my next model I definitely will make them from wood, because these give them more stability.

 There were 20 crewmembers attached to the kit. They are from high quality. If you decide to build the ship as a waterline model in action, you will need the crewmembers.

A ship on the sea without showing any crewmembers on deck, would looks a little like a ghost ship. After the crewmembers have been placed on deck, climbing the ratlines and standing on the yards, you soon will recognize that 20 crewmembers are not many. So I decided to buy some more figures.

The extra figures are three sets of each 6 working men from the brand Preiser.

They have been altered and repainted according to their purposes on deck. One figure was altered into a seaman missing one leg, who is walking on starboard side of the upper deck on crutches.

 Delivered with the kit are four different sizes of rigging thread in black and brown.

I bought a lot of extra rigging threat, but did also not try to save as much as possible and let the remaining ends longer than necessary in order for easier rigging. On deck

the ends were first cut off shortly behind the knots, before the coiled-up ends were attached afterwards in a manner which makes it not visible that the ends had been cut off before.

(It is very difficult, if not impossible, to coil up the remaining ends of the thread whilst the rigging is tighten on deck.) Before attaching the ends to the pins afterwards they have to be coiled up, which can be done very realistic by using the following technique: First roll a piece of thread around a round object (pencil or brush). Than brush it with Micro Crystal Clear and let it dry.

When dry you easily can shape the thread into the desired form and glue it on deck. 

You can build the model with closed or open gunport covers. If you want them open, you should open all the gunport covers and have all cannons ready, because open only a part of the covers would be unrealistic.

All cannons under deck are rigged following the instruction sheet, using the same method as on deck. However the rigging of the cannons under deck is hardly visible after the upper deck has been attached.

The cannons on deck have got additional rigging (not mentioned in the instruction sheet). 

The additional cannon rigging on deck is very visible. The effect is worth the extra work.

However I did not scratchbuild the blocks as part of the cannon rigging. In this scale they are extremely small and you can hardly build them. 

The captains cabin pieces, also delivered with the kit, are also hardly visible when the hull is assembled. May be you would see something, if a little bulb would be installed inside the hull.  

The windows at the stern are fine moulded. On the inner side of the hull a transparent  plastic sheet, delivered with the kit, can be glued before assembling the upper deck.

This creates the effect of real windows and looks very realistic. (I have seen painted windows on expensive wooden models.) 

The engravings at the stern gallery, on the galleon and the hull are very fine moulded by Revell. Careful painting will also lead to a very realistic effect. 

Six different sizes of blocks are in the box. I cannot imagine making them better from scratch.

Like each other part of the model I also painted all the blocks to create a wood-like effect.  

The wooden decks are well imitated on the plastic and you can create the effect of real wooden decks by using the well known methods such as painting, softly grinding, dry brushing etc. Unfortunately I grinded at the beginning of my modelling the decks almost totally smooth, because I had thought about a different method to imitate the wooden deck.

Unfortunately this had not the desired effect, and now, after knowing all the different methods like dry brushing and so on, it is too late to rely on them.

I have to be satisfied with the result, which happily still let the deck looks like from wood!

I used some general modelling methods, which also used by aircraft modellers. Books about plastic modelling of sailing ships are very hardly, if not at all, to find. The best sources here are modelling forums.

One important thing for me, self evident for most of the modellers today, was the use of superglue. Without superglue and its good adhesive qualities, also on painted areas, it would have been not possible for me to build this model. Also very helpful was the accelerator to let the superglue set immediately, preferably whilst gluing difficult rigging constructions.

The main yard broke, after the rigging was already far done. Without superglue together with the accelerator I most probably would have given up all the modelling here.

SEA CONSTRUCTION

To imitate the sea I used as a base a styropor plate. This plate first were painted with water colours in blue and turkey. Near the hull of the ship due to the water extremely mixed with air turkey coloured water looks most realistic; the more the distance from the ship increases, the more the colour of the water tends into dark blue.

On the ready coloured plate silicone was added by using a palette-knife. With a teaspoon the waves were moulded into the fresh silicone corresponding with the direction of the wind.

The foam at the bow and alongside the hull can be moulded into the silicone by using a tooth-pick.

When the silicone is dry you can paint the crests with white colour.   

The hull has been lowered into the styropor up to the waterline, and has not been cut.

Cutting the hull at the waterline I considered too risky, since I only decided to show the ship as a waterline-model after the masts and rigging already had been finished. 

Photos made with Fuji S5000, at daylight as well as at artificial light. As a background I used  a poster, which I bought in a shop for rail-modelling accessories. (There were no changes made to the photos by Photoshop software, which would show the model on the photos different from the original model.) 

CONCLUSIONS

 

It was not my intention to let my Constitution looks like the original for hundred percent, but found fine detailing and effective presentation most important. Today no one knows how the Constitution precisely looked at a certain period during her long career.

For me it was important to let the ship looks like a real sailing ship at full speed at sea. 

The kit did not disappoint me in any respect. This kit can be build by a careful and concentrated modeller into a top model of this famous ship. 

The scale 1/96 allows extensive detailing.

Dietmar Carstensen

October 2008

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