Trumpeter 1/350 USS Arizona

A multi-part Online build

Part 3

Model, Text and Photos by: Charles Landrum

 

Part III.

Painting USS ARIZONA

This is the largest and most critical step in achieving a sharp appearance. Essentially I painted the entire ship gray, masked the major assemblies, painted the decks, masked and painted the hull, and then hand painted the over-sprayed deck fittings.

This has also been the most time consuming of my steps to date, for the whole painting process revolved around my goal to obtain a realistic teak deck. After all, the teak decks are a large portion of the visible area of this ship, so I didn't want them to be boringly uniform.

(My apologies for a lack of photos for every step. A roll of film was destroyed with a loss of the corresponding pictures).

Paints Used:

White Ensign Miniatures Colour Coat:
WEMCC US01 Pre-war #5 Standard Navy Gray
WEMCCUS02 Pre-war #20 Standard Deck Gray

Thinning ratio used: 2 parts paint to one part thinner. Model Master airbrush thinner was used .

Testors:
Model Master FS 33531 Sand
Model Master ANA 616 Sand
Model Master FS 33613 Radome Tan
Model Master Panzer Interior Buff
Model Master FS 31136 Insignia Red (underwater hull)
9137273504 Semi-gloss black (1/4 oz bottle) (boot topping)

Thinning ratio used: Same as above.

I like to use Testors paints in my modeling, due to their assortment and availability here in the US. But they do not carry a range of ship-colors, Testors focuses on aircraft and armor colors. To simplify the project I decided to try the new White Ensign Miniatures (WEM) line of Colour Coat paints. Pre-mixed they come in the esoteric pre-war shades that I needed. WEM mail orders worldwide and I had the paints in a week. They compare favorably to color chips a friend made up from the actual paint standards. The paints come in tins like the Humbrol line of paints. I used Testors paints for the rest of the project.

I used a Paasche H single action airbrush through out the painting process. It is a simple and reliable airbrush that performs well. You needs its broad coverage for the hull colors and and initial deck color.

The first part of the painting started off simply enough because no masking was required. Before I started though, I had to determine where the waterline and boot top will be. ARIZONA and the other dreadnought battleships, by this time, sat pretty low in the water. They sat even lower in the water by 1941. I didn't mark the waterline but made a mental note of its location. I used the Standard Navy Gray to spray the upper hull, the barbettes, superstructure, main deckhouses and main mast. I took several shots to achieve a uniform coat and to hide all of the holidays (USN term, other wise known as missed spots). WEM recommends waiting 6 hours between coats. Gray over gray primer made it hard to spot the holidays, but the sheen of the paint made it standout better from the dull luster of the primer.

 

To paint the decks I used masking tape to cover the gray. (The Colour Coat paints did not pull off when I later unmasked.) To save time, I wrote off the small deck fittings, opting to hand paint them later. I masked the freeboard down to the top of the boot topping. Since there is no upsweep to the ship's (or model's) bow or stern, I was able to measure with a steel-rule to achieve a straight waterline. The top of the boot topping runs below the step of the hull blister but above the curve where the hull starts to bulge out. I then masked the turret barbettes, the superstructure, major deck houses, the large ventilators on the fantail, the incinerator and the lower legs of the main mast.

Planking the decks or the "Rusty White" method.

Warning: This is a time consuming and tedious task, that took me two months to complete. I could have done it in less time if I didn't have a family and job.

First my methodology. My plan was to spray four colors, requiring three applications of tape. The tape would hide the layers already sprayed. I chose to go from dark to light, but in the case where the colors are so close in hue, I don't think that it really matters.

Teak decks when properly maintained - sanded and bleached with salt water - are light in color. They only take on a rich hue when wet as evidenced in the accompanying color photos of the decks on USS TEXAS in 1941. With this in mind I chose to replicate a dry deck. Therefore I needed several shades or a light tan color. After perusing my supply of paint and the Model Master rack at the hobby shop, I settled on the colors listed.

Photos are from the Battleship TEXAS BB-35 website maintained by Charles Moore

Secondly, the planks of USN teak decks are narrow in width and irregular in length. Interpreting from the TEXAS photo of the personnel inspection, I estimated the plank width be 3-4 inches. I observed on USS WISCONSIN that there is no set pattern and that lengths are random, probably to utilize every board foot of the teak stock. Therefore, to achieve a scale appearance I needed tape 1 pt in width. Suffering from advanced modeling syndrome as I do, even I realized my limitations in trying to cut masking tape that thin. So I went to my local art supply store and found graphics tape by Cello-Pak in 1, 2, 3 and 4 point widths. I doubt if this tape is still widely available, since most graphics work is done on computer now. You might want to try an older graphics or architectural supply store.

Three keys to successfully masking individual planks:
- Patience
- Keep the planks parallel
- Keep the planks plumb to the centerline.

There are three keys to successfully masking individual planks. The first is patience. The second is keeping the planks parallel and the third is keeping the planks plumb to the centerline. Fortunately the deck is sufficient busy to hide the mistakes! Working the tape around the numerous deck fittings is no small task either. I used a steel rule and my eyeball, and was mostly successful.

Once the ship was masked I started the decks. Remember, you have to "teak" the foc'sle, the fantail, and the upper gun deck. I sprayed FS 33531 Sand as the first color, and laid down several coats for uniformity of appearance. After letting it dry for several days. I began to "plank". The first layer of planks was the trickiest, because I wanted it to be parallel and plumb. Therefore, I used some 2, 3 and 4 point tape as spacers to get the pattern straight. Remember you only need to cover 25% of the deck in the first application, but even so it's a lot of tape; I ended up using one roll of tape per application! It's not a mindless process either, because you want to make sure that you end up with visually interesting deck. I found that I had to be in the right frame of mind to lay the tape.

Once the tape was applied I would spray the next color, allow it to dry a few days and start over. I wove in subsequent layers to try to uniformly cover another 25% of the surface area. It doesn't matter if you overlap your previous layer. I over lapped same color planks to add visual interest.

Two months and three layers later I finished on Christmas Eve. December 25th I unwrapped the deck, hesitantly because I was afraid that if I had messed it up, I just lost two months. I used pointed tweezers to remove the tape, gently sliding it under the tape layers. I then pulled up-wards lifting whole sections. It was the best present that I opened on Christmas! The deck is eye-catching, yet subtle in appearance. Rusty White recommends toning down the deck with the lightest color once its finished, but since I used lighter hues, I did not feel the need to do the same.

Painting the Hull

With the decks done. I laid a protective wall of tape around the deck to prevent overspray. I used Insignia Red for the underwater hull, painting all the way up to the upper boot topping in order to eliminate seams between colors. I prefer Insignia Red because it is a good match for anti-fouling red lead paint. A color picture of PENNSYLVANIA, during the war, showed her hull to be a similar color. Some shipyards used a reddish-brown color, like boxcar red, but I went with the brighter red. By the way I hate spraying red paint. I don't know why but it bleeds more than any other color, but it does.

After a few days, I masked the boot topping to a width of by applying the lower tape. I used a sufficient width of tape to prevent overspray onto the hull red. I chose a semi-gloss black for the boot topping, because it sprays better than Model Master flat black and readily accepts draft markings without the decals silvering. Upon unmasking the hull I found that the lower edge of the boot topping was a sharp demarcation. The upper edge over the gray was a bit ragged because the red had bled a little onto the gray. I waited a few days for the black paint to cure and then simply masked over the boot topping and re-sprayed Navy Standard Gray in touch-up. It sharpened up the boot topping nicely.

Finishing touches

With the spray painting done, I went back and cut in the details with a fine brush. On the ARIZONA all of the deck fittings and metal borders were Standard Navy Gray. This contrasts to other ships like the TEXAS, which painted them Standard Deck Gray. I guess it depended on the personality of the deck force. Besides repainting the deck fittings I also brush painted the waterway border around the foc'sle and fantail decks. The upper decks lacked this waterway and the teak was taken to the deck edge. I used Standard Deck Gray to brush paint the chain plated on the foc'sle.

I applied the decals provided in the kit before sealing the hull with a clear coat. ARIZONA simply carried her name on both sides of the stern and two sets of draft markings, one very forward on the bow and one set all the way aft. I prepared the flat paint by applying a coat of Future acrylic floor wax to prevent silvering. Once applied the decals were overcoated with Future as well.

Part IV - The ship takes shape - assembly of the major sub assemblies.

Back to Part 2...

On to Part 4...

 


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Models and Accessories:



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Reference Material:



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