1:250 Scale USS Helena

Discussion in 'Ship & Watercraft Models' started by Darwin, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Don't anyone go into catatonic shock, but I've finally taken a vacation from drawing and am actually butchering paper again. The object of the build is a 1:250 scale version of the light cruiser USS Helena (CA-50). The kit started as the 1:400 JSC kit. I was intending including a few photos with this posting, but after finally getting the house to disgorge my digital camera, I found the batteries are doing a great mackeral imitation (as in "as dead as"). To kill time until I get a chance to get new batteries and find a clear flat spot large enough to place it on (not easy when you have two packrats sharing a two-bedroom shack, and no kids around to have to be a good example for), I will bore you with some chit-chat regarding how I got this far.

    I started with a 300 dpi scan of my JSC kit. The first step was to make a copy and reduce the image size to 80%. By then setting the resolution of my final parts pages to 150 dpm, the scale conversion is relatively painless. Why 1:250? I intend keeping the kit waterline (at least until I can get a set of superstructure parts that actually fit), and that scale will fit right into my collection of Wilhelmshaven ships (when they get built). As I pile up birthdays, I find working in 1:400 getting more trouble than it's worth, and 1:200 takes up just a bit too much shelf space.

    After manipulating size, I "cut apart" the JSC pages into individual parts image files. I used PSP Pro to rotate the parts to get the axes of the parts into true horizontal/vertical alignment, Image Forge to overdraw the parts outlines, Photoshop to erase everything but the outlines, then finally Image Forge again to repaint the parts. In the process, I modified many of the parts by making single large, multiple-fold parts into several smaller component pieces, and eliminating all tabs. I think joining strips are a more appropriate construction technique for larger scale models than tabs, and find it much harder to get a very large, multiple-fold part to "look right" than an assembly of smaller parts. Also, this allows aligning about all of the bulkheads on a true horizontal rather than a diagonal, giving much crisper looking hatches, equipment boxes, ladders, etc. etc.

    I also did away with the build-a-box JSC construction technique. Starting with the deck, I figured out the former locations for the original JSC formers, then used the former dimensions to create a base platform for the waterline hull. Because of the amount of enlargement, I doubled the number formers, then designed a keel to get into an egg-crate design for the hull framework. I'm keeping the JSC idea of using thick cardstock for the hull sides, to which the hull skin will eventually be glued to. To further stiffen up the structure, I am adding diagonal braces going from the keel out to the former ends. This is one hull that isn't going to assume banana aspect half-way through the build. I also figure that, since JSC kits are not renowned for fit accuracy, I had better make the hull as bullet-proof as I can, since it will undoubtedly go through a lot of handling as I go through the trial-and-error process of making a kit that actually fits together.

    As a building base, I used a 36"x3"x1/2" balsa plank. I've thumbtacked the hull base platform to the plank, with the tacks placed such that they don't interfere with any of the structural components. I intend leaving the hull thumbtacked to the balsa until the model is finished. I will then pry the model off the building base and shove the points of the thumbtacks up into hull. The thumbtacks will then rattle around inside the hull, but what the hey....if nothing else, I can always use the model as a mariachi. Seriously, I think this much caution is warranted. The hull is about 30 inches long, and less than 3" wide....a literal toothpick. This is definitely not a model to try to free-build unless you find cork-screws attractive.

    If all goes as I hope, I should have a few pictures to post of the hull framework in a day or two. There will then be a bit of a delay while I do the redraws of the hull sides. My Mk-10 calibrated eyeball told me it would be a minor miracle if the kit parts fit on the 1:400 scale version, much less after nearly doubling every fit problem in the original kit. Then things should go quicker, as I have all the superstructure redrawn, and hopefully will need only minor adjustments to correct fit errors.

    Don't expect a super-detailed build on this thread....my primary effort right now is to create a basic kit that actually fits together and has reasonable fidelity to scale....plus, I am no Scorpio when it comes to the building department. If this works out well, I then may revisit the design to convert it to full hull and refine the details....but suspect that I will be off on another tangent before that happens (if this one works, the JSC Tirpitz would be cool in 1:250, as would be the Admiral Scheer....and what about the Grossdeutschland? I've bored you enough....wish me Hals und Bien bruch, Scorpio.....I'm going to need it. :D
  2. jrts

    jrts Active Member

    Hi Darwin

    Very intresting read and project, look forward to this so dn't get sidelined :lol:

    One word "MORE"

    Have fun

  3. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Still no pics....put new batteries in the camera, and it came back to life. However, I took another close look at some photos of the Helena, and found a major deviation between the JSC model and the prototype in the bow of the ship. The JSC model is absolutely slab-sided (straight up and down) in the bow, and the photos show a very pronounced flare at the bow. In 1:400 scale, that would not be that noticible, but in 1:250 scale is pretty glaring an error. The bow rake I assumed in the initial keel design was also inadequate. This prompted a major build hold-point while making up my mind whether to forge on as was or try to correct the inaccuracies while still possible to do so. This rethink happened after completing the egg-crate, but before I started gluing on the sides. I chose to make the corrections, so took the hull off the building board and performed free-form butchery on the bow section. The result wasn't pretty, so maybe no pics at this point is a good thing. I'm back on track on the build now, and am putting on the hull side framework. With luck, a liberal application of the sanding block will make things pretty again. Should have a few photos to post by the the next update. My attempt at merging the JSC "first build a box" hull construction technique with the conventional egg-crate is a lot more time consuming, but I think the added hull rigidity will make it worthwhile.
  4. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Finally some pics. Please bear with me as I learn how to use this new toy. However, the closeups look promising (at lest before I have to start butchering the photo quality to get the size small enough to upload). The first and second shots are the hull framework before sanding and the redrawn deck. The third shot is a closer look at the bow after sanding. the hull base platform, formers, and keel is a two-layer lamination of poster card (as obtained in 20-inch by 30-inch sheets in the stationery department of almost any grocery store, department store, etc. here in the US. The diagonal braces are a single layer of cardboard from a coca-cola box. The sides are build up from two layers of coke-carton cardboard followed by two layers of poster card. A little bit of bowing did creap in....it won't be any flatter than the base you fix it to, and on closer inspection, the balsa plank is slightly bowed. Its actually not too bad....the bow rises about an eighth-inch above the table top. There is absolutely no twisting of the hull, though....at least one thing came out right. I was right about the rigidity of this technigue....even without the deck platform, you really have to apply some pressure to get it to deform. After putting on the deck, I bet you could use it for a cricket bat.

    A couple of lessons learned. First, I tried using Aleene's clear gel glue for laminating the first part of the hull platform to the poster card. Bad mistake....the clear gel is a whole bunch "wetter" than the tacky glue is. Almost instantly, enough waves in the board to make Popeye seasick! If I wasn't so anxious to see how the enlargement fits together, I would have started over. However, a couple of days tightly pinned down to the building board and it came out acceptably for an alpha builld. Also, take care using cardboard from packaging....the printed surface of the cardboard is difficult to glue to....I had to rough up the printed surface with sandpaper before it would take the adhesive well.

    As sturdy as the hull framework came out, I think I can safely dispense with the building board from here out. I am going to leave the hull sides for after I've got the superstructure built but before I start adding details. Seeing how great the deck looks laid out along the hull, I'm too impatient to get slowed down by redrawing the hull sides. (I can sneak that in during lunchtimes at work. Data sticks are wonderful.)
  5. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    I'll be double-dipped in bad stuff if I can get the hang of attaching photos. Guess the 100 kb limit is for the photo album. I don't know what is going to be left of the photos by the time I get them less than 45k....try, try again....then say "enough of this #($&^% and go get a beer.
  6. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Attempt two.
  7. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Attempt 3. I think I've gotten them all, just bass-ackwards.
  8. Darwin

    Darwin Member

  9. cmdrted

    cmdrted Active Member

    Darwin, you are breaking new ground, it's lookin' good. When I did this with Shimakaze I actually did 3 hulls worth of stuff until it was about right. Keep the eggcrate and if all else fails print the hull with the colors on regular type stock and laminate it on regular card stock @ 67 lb, then you can lightly tack to the frame work you have built. This conversion is on "the list" for stuff to do down the road. Are you using the updated version or the old version of Helena?
  10. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Ted, I'm using one of the old versions (at least I think it's an old one....I bought it about three years ago from Red Star Models). The Shimkazi is also on my list of things to do someday, though I think I want to try converting it to the Kaiten carrier version. That will be a while, though, since I keep promising myself my next build will be my Mogami redesign. The Big Mo kit I managed to sneak in from your Ebay postings has me thinking, though.....Wouldn't be too much to bump it up to 1:250, lengthen the hull a bit and add another aft turret, and Vola....a Montana class beast that never was. So many ideas, so little time. And to think some people ask me if I am worried about what to do when my time comes to retire. If Maurice can point me to the right Wunderwaffe file (how do you ever keep them straight, guy....you have them indexed or something), I'm still toying with the idea of adding the red parts to the Helena. I still haven't gotten through all the issues of Warship I picked up off Ebay....maybe one of them might have some usable hull drawings.
  11. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    After completing today's posts, I got to thinking (always a dangerous thing...and no, it didn't hurt....at least, not too much). Several of the members have commented about the build strings being good sources of information for them. I have a feeling that some portions of the build we think are so basic that everyone just knows how to do it may still be an unknown to a beginner. Everyone knows what to do when we say we sand down the framework, right??? Yet, I can visualize someone wanting to know what kind of tools we may use, and are there any tips that may make the task easier for them. I hope I don't bore anyone with anything this basic, but no special tools or materials are used to sand down a cardboard model compared to any other medium. Just regular sandpaper and a sanding block. Mine is front and center in the pic below....just a hard rubber sanding block and medium grit sandpaper from K-Mart. No particular techniques....just sand the top and sides down until everything that should be flush....is. One way of knowing when you have finished is to use a felt-tip to color all the edges you want smooth and flush, like the tops of the formers and the keel. When all the color is gone from those surfaces, you have them all sanded down flush and can quit. Just rubbing your fingertips across the surfaces will let you know if you have any appreciable irregularity in the surfaces. Most people can easily detect a dimension difference of 5 mils (thousandths of an inch) or even less just by feel.

    As a progress report....the deck platform and deck are now glued on, and the assembly is now overnighting in the basement under a pile of computer books....always knew Linix for Dummies would come in handy. I will take a few shots tomorrow of my redrawn parts pages sitting alongside the original kit to show what is possible with freeware graphic software, along with a closeup of what I've done to make the design more appropriate for the larger scale.
  12. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    The deck is on. Amazing how minor little errors in the drawing process pop right out at you when you put it on display before the world. The little color void is now corrected in my parts files, and a little application of watercolor pencil should do for the alpha build. I can't really say I like the color scheme of blue/dark blue JSC used for the ship....when all the parts are proven to fit, I think I will do some recoloring and change things to gray/dark gray. I thought I had a closeup shot of the deck and some pics of the redrawn pages to show you, but somewhere during the shoot things went FUBAR with the camera (or, more likely, the photographer).
  13. garyj36

    garyj36 Member

    Dont recolor it. As modeled the ship wore MS21 camo. Which is overall navy blue with darker blue on decks.As a matter of fact. The wood would have been painted over dark blue as well.
  14. Maurice

    Maurice Member

    What a laugh, me have something sorted out and indexed. I couldn't organise one of them in one of those. :lol:
    If they've done Helena yet - I missed it.

    Neat work Dar.
  15. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Just a quickupdate to let you know progress is being made, albeit slowly. The bridge now rises four levels above the deck....another two layers and I can start on the after portion of the superstructure. No pics to show yet (part of the reason for slowness of the build is a couple of days being miserable with arthritis/gout flareup, which I seem to go through whenever the barometer starts oscillating. Also contributing are frequent pauses to make minor corrections to the parts. Only a few have been so far off that I felt compelled to print out replacements before continuing with the build. Most of the fit problems only amount to differences of two or three pixels. All things considered, I've been very happy with the enlargements. The only major corrections (dimension off by 1/8 inch or more) have been to correct obvious screwups in the original kit. Another contributor to build slowness is my preferred construction method for the superstructure components. Anyone who has done some cabinetry will recognize the approach used. I reinforce all wall (bulkhead) parts by laminating the cardstock to light cardboard, leaving a "lip" at the top of the bulkhead interior that is the same dimension as the cardboard thickness. After all the walls are joined, I "roof" the assembly with cardboard inset like a lid into the structure, and finally glue on the overhead cardstock part. A bit slow, but the resulting structure is sturdy as as brick outhouse. The diagram below illustrates what I've attempted to describe verbally.
  16. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    That's what I'm trying to get my head around for making interior structures for WWI and antique aircrafts. You can think vertical and horizontal crossbraces for the fuselage, and the figure would be the same. Added difficulty is that, ideally, the internal structure should be halved, in order to be able to insert internal rigging wires between layers. Haven't figured it out yet... - L.
  17. wunwinglow

    wunwinglow Active Member

  18. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Nice sunny day with no wind, so managed to get some pics. As stated before, the purpose of this build is mainly to make the main structural parts fit together....quick and not necessarily pretty. I have made a couple concessions to detail, like prettying up the WT doors (the simple rectangle used by JSC is a bit stark when enlarged). The most significant dimensional errors encountered so far are the positions of the gun tub and crane support pedistals. I corrected the parts files, but the errors were not big enough to cause me to rip out and start over on the build...I can live with malpositioning.
  19. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    A few more. Ted, you aren't the only one struggling with multiple pic posts.
  20. cmdrted

    cmdrted Active Member

    Darwin, You're looking good, When you enlarge these JSCs there are alot of spartan details that beg to be addressed. On the shimakaze some of the hose reels, and small ready ammo bins were just printed on. You have an option of forcing the perspective in an editing program or simply just cutting out an enlarged part and sticking it on. Or snapping up some parts from an already larger scaled ship.

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