1/700 Cleveland Class Cruiser USS Houston
converted from the Skywave USS Miami kit

Model &Text: by Marc Flake


Skywaves 1/700 USS Miami Stock Number: SWW23



The kit is Skywave’s CL-89 USS Miami, a variant of the Cleveland-class light cruisers.  The Miami kit contains the parts to build the earlier versions of the Cleveland-class, so I surmise you could probably build either version out of both kits.  The primary differences are in the bridge and the placement of the rangefinders.  The earlier versions had a rounded bridge structure, while the later versions were more squared off.  The later version switched the placement of the gun directors for the 6-inch and 5-inch guns after it was found that the radar for the 5-inchers interfered with the 6-inchers radar.  Different radar options on the fore and main masts are also offered in the kit.


The kit is equal to Skywave’s high standard.  All the parts are crisply molded with little, if any flash.  Besides the sprues to build the main parts of the ship, the kit also has two identical sprues filled with small parts like 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns, ship’s boats, radars, and gun directors, as well as the main and secondary armament.  Plenty of the parts on these sprues will be left over, providing a wealth of material for the spares box.  However, it should be noted that some of the smaller weapons, such as the 20mm cannon, are over scale.  Those into superdetailing will probably want to discard these and replace them with their favorite photoetched parts.  I built this kit completely out-of-the-box with no additional photoetching applied.  However, Tom’s Modelworks provides a PE set specifically for this class of light cruiser.

The instructions are well laid-out and easy to understand – except for a couple of paragraphs that describe the superstructure assemblies in Japanese.  The parts list is largely useless unless you read Japanese.  The bottom of the box and back page of the instructions provide the modeler with three different camouflage choices for 6 ships.  The Houston used the same pattern as the Miami.  The actual USN color designations are provided, as are the numbers of Pitroad paints.


Assembly is extremely easy as the builder merely follows along with the instructions.  All the small parts that need assembling are done first.  I stuck these on a tongue depressor with a strip of double-sided tape stuck on one side.  Next the bridge and aft superstructure are assembled.  Even though I couldn’t read the Japanese instructions, the exploded drawing was so clear I was able to fit these together without a problem.

This was where I began deviating from the instructions, leaving the 20mm gun directors (C28) on the sprues for application after painting.  Care should be taken at this point to ensure that the masts and yardarms are aligned perfectly.

The hull consists of two pieces, the waterline “base” and the hull from the waterline up to the main deck.  There was a slight step between the hull and the waterline “base” on my kit that needed a little cleaning-up.  Except for the forecastle, the main deck is molded into the hull.  The forecastle drops in easily – seamlessly, I might add.  The bridge and aft superstructure were then glued on.  Both fit snuggly with no gaps.


At this point I painted the model, with almost all the small parts still on the sprues and the rest on the tongue depressor. The ship and small parts all received a coat of PollyScale Light Gray 5-L.  I then used drafting masking tape to outline the areas where I would spray the black areas.  I photocopied the painting guide and cut out the curved portions to use as a pattern to cut the masking tape.  Once the ship was painted, I compared the small parts on the sprues with their locations on the model and painted the appropriate parts in black to match the surrounding camouflage pattern.  In some instances, such as on gun tubs and molded-on deck fittings, I had to go back and re-paint the appropriate colors.  The deck pattern was painted free-hand using PollyScale Weather Deck Blue 20B and Ocean Gray 5-O.  I painted the aircraft with ModelMaster Sea Blue topsides, Intermediate Blue sides and Insignia White undersides.  The white should be glossy, but a semi-gloss effect is better in this scale.  I painted the cockpit glass gloss black and the engine area, as well as the propellers, flat black.


Again, following the instruction I finished putting the small parts on the main body of the ship.  Some paint touch-ups were needed to get the camouflage patterns to match up, but this fit into my normal routing of touch-up and re-touch-up that I do as I finish a ship model.  Upon completion, the model received an overall coat of Clear Flat.


Skywave’s Miami kit would be an excellent first ship kit.  Little clean-up of the parts is required, the parts fit well and the camouflage scheme is rather easy even though it looks complicated.  The Cleveland kit would be easier only because it has a less complex camouflage scheme.