ICM 1/144 Type XXIII U-boat

KIT #: S.004
PRICE: 10 Euros
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Frank Spahr


I was landed with this kit in a modeling friendīs surprise attack at a modeling show. In an (ultimately doomed) attempt at stash thinning, he shoved the box into my hands and uttered something in the lines of itīd sure be a nice subject for me and heīd already built one of the type. Well, this was neither the first nor the last kit from this source, and somehow I built most of them in the end – thank you, Christian!

More of less on a whim (and to procrastinate more intricate and demanding projects) I decided to begin the kit soon after the show, which was in October 2012. I had a convenient display box and chose to build the model as a scuttled submarine in the Baltic. Two of the scuttled Type XXIII were raised in the 1950ies and served in the new Federal German Navy, so it would be an in-between thing which looked quite interesting to me.


A preview of the kit is to be found here.


Submarine kits tend to have a low part count and are nice in-between projects, this kit is no exception. I built the (nicely fitting) kit straight away and only added some minor refinements. The limber holes were deepened using a heatened screwdriver, a number of holes at the sail and the bow hydrophone array were drilled deeper, and the step irons at the front of the sail replaced with spare PE. The fine antennae were made from thin brass wire (0.2 mm).

The base was prepared while building the model. I used a piece of 40 mm foam board cut to size for the display case. A slight incline of the base was produced using an old breadknife and sanding paper. A cutout for the hull was also made using a bread knife. Acrylic filler from the hardware store worked fine for puttying the base.


The model was primed using solvent-based hardware store primer from a rattle can. The boat was then sprayed convenient shades of Vallejo Acrylics after looking through the various reference sites.  The white stripe at the sail came in handy to add some optical appeal. I did not try to depict any individual boat, though. The various periscopes were painted steel, the screw bronze.


Now came the fun part, as in weathering the boat. I used various artistīs oil paints, both as washes and filters. The base was at the time painted with greenish-grey wall paint mixed with fine sand, aiming at a surface that hinted at a seabed, even though being much too coarse. Sometimes you need to deceive the eye … I used a large brush in a stippling motion.

That cured, I was able to add the boat to the base. I used modeling plaster, also from the hardware store. It came handy to close any gaps and simulate accumulated mud. After curing, this was painted with the same mixture of paint and sand to blend things in. Further blending and weathering was done by brushing and spraying of various acrylic paints.

The seabed looked much too plain, so I mixed fine sand with clear paint and added patches of the mixture to add some structure. Looking at lots of photos divers had taken in the Baltic gave me yet more ideas and colours and textures. I used pieces of foam board, static grass and iceland moss to make rocks covered with marine growth, and added them to the seabed. Finally, everything received a generous dusting of greyish-brownish acrylic paint from the airbrush to hint at silt covering it all.

Something was still missing, as the scene looked too static and dead. Well, it would have been in reality, but what we do is create a sort of enhanced simulation of reality that is meant to convey some sort of expression. Something was missing here. So I had the idea of piece of fishing net fouled in the periscopes. That proved quite a challenge, as it was pretty hard to find a suitable material. Fishing nets are really fine, and the first three materials I sourced looked much too heavy and dense. Again, they would have been quite proper, if you thought how fine a mesh would be needed for 1:144 scale fish of ordinary size, but still they looked wrong. When I shopped for groceries one Saturday morning late in October, I found a box of decorative pumpkins of weird shapes and shades, covered by some very fine netting that turned out to be just the ticket. It was cut to size, lightly sprayed in a muddy colour and fixed to the periscope, completing the model.

I was able to take the model to Scale Model World in November, 2012, and had quite some chats about it. One favourite criticism was that the periscopes were unbent and surely would have been bent once the net was fouled in them and torn. I honestly had no idea how much force a periscope would be able to take and how easily a net would tear. So my (admittedly lame) excuse was that my net might just as easily have been torn at some other obstacle, had come loose somehow and ultimately, gently, softly, entirely non-violently had snuggled around my boatīs periscopes.


 My conclusion is that this is nice kit that builds easily, has a manageable size with some nice detailing, and motivated me to make a new sort of presentation, one that needed thought and was a lot of fun.

Frank Spahr

January 2014

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