Building The Fujimi 1/350 IJN Kongo, Part 1
by: Dade W. Bell
I would first like to thank Dragon USA for supplying the Fujimi 1/350 IJN Kongo used for this build review. Next I would like to thank Dade for his blood, sweat, and tears he had to of shed during this build. This is part 1 of 2 parts for this build review.
The Kongo was the class lead of a group of Imperial Japanese Navy battle cruisers. The Kongo herself was built by Vickers in England in 1913, and was the last major Japanese warship built abroad. This was so the Japanese could study the latest improvements in nautical design at the time from the Royal Navy and adapt them to the IJN's own ships (the Kongo's three sisters were built in Japan).
The Kongo was modernized between 1929-1931 and re-rated as a battleship, and after 1936-1937 more refits culminated in a lengthened hull, new machinery, heavy armor and faster speed.
Various upgrades throughout the Second World War gave her radar and a massive array of anti-aircraft weaponry in her final configuration. The Kongo was involved in the Battle Off Samar, and was in the thick of the fighting against Taffy 3. She is variously credited with taking part in the action against (or sinking) the USS Gambier Bay, USS USS Samuel B. Roberts, USS Hoel, and USS Johnston.
The Kongo soldiered for almost another month, until being found by the submarine USS Sea Lion, who sunk her with torpedos. She was the only battleship of the IJN to be sunk by a submarine, and the last battleship ever to be sunk like this.
Displacement: 36,601 tons
Dimensions: 728'4" x 101'8" x 31'9"
Speed: 30 knots
Armament: 8 x 14"/45, 16 (later 14) x 6"/50, 8 x 5"/40 DP, up to 118 x 25mm AA
Armor: 8" belt, 2.75" (later strengthened) deck, 9" turret face
This build will contain the following items from, Fujimi and the aftermarket:
Fujimi Kongo Deluxe Photo Etched Parts (#11153)
Fukuya 15cm and 12.7cm brass barrels (#350-23)
Shinsengumi 1/350 wooden deck set (#015)
Prologue: The Base
Taking a slight detour, we'll look at mounting this model. The kit comes with a very basic arrangement of two plastic cradles that many builders will quickly replace. Because the cradles are not attached to one another, they move around freely from one another and can't be used reliably even during construction. Plan ahead for your base as it will make construction much easier in later stages.
As always, I asked my father to work his magic and make a base according to my specifications-- he didn't disappoint. I filled the tops of the brass tubes with Tamiya Epoxy Putty to better distribute the weight of the ship. The Kanji is the self adhesive brass that comes with the deluxe PE set.
Looking ahead, here's the primered hull test fitted onto the base. When the hull is painted and ready, I will epoxy it to the base.
Part 1: The Hull…
Right out of the box, the hull has good molding with no flash. However, the issue of incorrect casemate shapes becomes apparent (this issue has gotten more discussion as more experts have weighed in). The casemate sides are supposed to be vertical, but on this kit, they are angled inwards at the top. This issue will take some time to correct for those who want accuracy. I myself had forgotten about it (it wasn't discussed as much yet) until later in the build when making corrections would have been even more costly in time. That said, this build is done with the incorrect casemate shapes left intact.
Despite the hull's quality molding, there is a seam that runs up and along toward the forward end of the bilge keel on each hull half. It's easy to miss at first, but once you see it, it's glaring.
It's basically caused from the mold that can be better seen from the inside of the hull:
It's best to take care of this nuisance now. I used the panel line removal tool to take away the seam and then sanded it down. Be careful not to sand off the lines that are supposed to be there! Now it's smooth to the touch and will look good once painted.
The hull halves go together well without the braces, but with braces installed, it gets a little more finicky. Clamps of all shapes and sizes become the order of the day and everything goes together after some negotiation. This process took a couple hours to get to this point:
After the hull set up, I drilled out two holes in the bottom and added tubing inside. This tubing is supported by Tamiya epoxy putty for strength, so the model can be attached to a base. The pictures were taken before the prow and chrysanthemum were attached.
Part 2: The Deck…
Now it's time to prepare for the Shinsengumi wood deck. First some items have to be removed- mainly the deck mounted gun shields and boat cradles. There are also two reels and boat rails that have to be removed. The shields and cradles aren't an issue as the deluxe PE set comes with replacements, so the plastic ones would have been removed anyway. The deck reels are also no problem as they'll be replaced by after market pieces. That leaves the boat rails to be scratch built, but two pieces of small styrene lengths will do the trick.
There is also a rather annoying separation point on the two-part deck as seen in older 1/350 kits. Thankfully, the wood deck will cover this nicely and no tedious filling will be necessary. But for those without a deck, this will be an issue...
All of the offending items have been removed (the deck is only dry fit at this point, thus the small gaps).
And now the wood deck is dry fit to see the placement. Shinsengumi's work is proven, paper thin, and the use of materials is excellent. Even at this stage, with the decks not glued on and everything just dry fit, it looks great! Note how all the mounting holes for vents, etc., as well as molded on structures all fit wonderfully. Using tis deck will cut down on the time it would normally take to mask, paint and weather the plastic deck. And note how the wood covers that two-part deck seam...
After a lot of work, the decks are all attached. The instructions show to attach all the little vents and other doodads before mounting the decks. This is a bad idea as you will be doing a lot of pushing, pulling, and clamping. Leave all the little guys off till the very end. I would have to anyway because of the wood deck going on first, but even without the deck, skip those steps until the end.
Another issue is that there are fairly large gaps between deck and hull. Lots of putty is needed. It is at this point where I highly recommend a wood deck. Not just for the masking and painting times savings, but the fact that you don't have to worry about scraping off any planking detail when you smooth out the putty. In this way I put the putty on and when sanded, there's no worry about messing up deck planking detail because the wood will cover it anyway.
Before the flight deck was made completely smooth, it looked like this...
But the entire thing will be replaced with PE, so all the molded on detail gets removed. This brings up a disturbing trend regarding the PE instructions. Often they don't show what the finished part is supposed to look like. You will make good use of your reference material with this kit (the catapult immediately comes to mind- it looks great, but without references you'll scratch your head).
The PE instructions are very vague- for example they tell you which PE boat cradles go on the main deck, but NOT the upper deck (where there are the most). So for that, make sure you measure each plastic cradle and make a note, so you'll know which PE replacements go where.
Finally, we have a big problem with the forward deck area bowing, causing the forward superstructure to sit askew like so (I hollowed out the portholes):
A significant hole was cut out of the deck area under the superstructure to relieve pressure and not cause the deck to bow. It's not pretty, but it works and it will be covered up.
With a little extra sanding on the superstructure bottom, we're in good shape. There is still a slight gap, but it disappears with just a tiny bit of pressure, so gluing it down will make the issue moot.
The gaps between the deck and edge of hull has been puttied and smoothed. Again, we don't have to worry about filling and sanding the plank detail because the wood deck will cover it anyway. Otherwise, this part could get rather time consuming and very frustrating.
The anchor chain pipes and hawse are hollowed out for better realism.
The model begins to come together:
There is a slight gap in the wood deck where the mounting slats for the structures glue in. This is not an issue as Shinsengumi includes an extra square (about 1.5" x 2") of wood with engraved planking to be used to cut "filler pieces" out of. Excellent.
The PE flight deck dry is fit. The railings haven't been folded up so painting the linoleum will be easier. Fujimi would have done well to make this piece from thicker brass. But because the piece is very thin, it curls up until it has been glued down.
That should take care of the hull and deck issues. Now we can start to focus on building the bridge area...
Part 3: The Bridge…
It's a very good idea to remember to dry fit the parts. Especially with this kit... While the upper decks of the superstructure fit together fairly well, there are nonetheless niggling little items that keep everything from being square. To paraphrase the carpenter's mantra, "dry fit twice, glue once."
While dry fitting the superstructure pieces and the legs of the tripod, this bizarre issue popped up:
As you can see, the closest leg is down as far as it will go, and yet it still sticks up too far to keep the level above from locating where it does without the legs (right picture). The farthest leg will also have to filed down some as well. Note that the glass is only really a "spacer" and will be replaced by the PE.
Now that the offending bits have been taken care of, we can dry fit the superstructure levels together.
On a related note, I recommend that even if you don't get PE, you should still replace the glass with some horizontally mounted PE ladder. The glass is too thick and has some rather unfortunate plastic plugs that will have to be removed and polished to transparency.
Some points of interest:
While all of the "glass" gets replaced with PE frames, for some reason the center glass on the 04 level has no PE replacement, so some PE ladder will have to be used as a replacement. Meanwhile, the side glass pieces on that level are each one panel too wide, so they will have to be trimmed to fit.
The instructions show PE part B2-35 (the main rear structure) plus B2-21. This had me scratching my head for a while until I realized that part B2-21 actually goes farther down (the lowest PE structure on the pictures) and does not attach to part B2-35 in any way. B2-21 will also have to be trimmed slightly at the top to properly fit over the plastic.
The PE ladders that go inside haven't been attached yet as they will go on after the floors have been painted. The same goes for all the binoculars, etc. Remember that this is all dry fit, thus the gaps that will tighten up when glued. The rear structure is supposed to "hug" the main structure more, but since all of this is dry fit, I had to lean it at a less extreme angle to keep from falling over.
The radar hasn't been glued on yet...
This is to better facilitate painting of both the tower and the multi part radar itself (this is also why the radar isn't "closed up").
Part 4: Going Midships
Here is the midships area around the funnels. All of the sub assemblies are dry fit as there is still a lot of PE to put on.
Everything is starting to come together in these dry fit photos.
The midships PE construction begins... First, the PE instructions for the funnels have a lot of errors/ missing info. The items marked in red are my changes and additions.
PE B2-01 and B2-02 are switched to their proper respective funnels.
PE A92 is not two separate parts and must be cut into two to be as shown or put on as one piece after the cap is mounted.
The bottom ring is unlabeled, but it is PE A50
The top ladder is unlabeled- it is PE A29 (again, one piece that either must be cut in two to be as shown or installed as one piece after mounting the cap).
The bottom ladder is PE A 28.
The bottom ring is only labeled as A65 for one segment and then the rest strangely becomes A66. Because of the pipe, the ring segments will not mount as in the picture some "fiddling" will be necessary...
The instructions also do not point out the fact that ladders go on BOTH sides of each funnel. Keep this in mind since after your scrape off the molded on ladders, you may forget this without a visual cue.
Here is the fore funnel with molded on detail scraped off and with PE attached. The cap and grill are dry fit.
Here is the aft funnel with molded on detail scraped off and with PE attached. Again, the cap and grill are dry fit.
Midship structure work- molded on aztek stairs removed and with PE stairs added.
This platform and all the PE took a while to assemble but looks really good when done, particularly the structure work. The platform by itself and dry fit to midships...
The PE instructions have a very crucial bit of of information missing: they don't say where to put any of the PE cradles! Luckily I saw this at the beginning of the build and measured the plastic pieces. The PE parts are very close in size so there was still some guesswork here. But this set up has worked out fairly well:
Next came the aft section of the midships. The instructions showed to place the A54 ring on the bottom. This is incorrect- its is second from the bottom.
Here is the structure with molded on detail removed and then PE added. Nice!
The mast gets topped with a PE platform. The platform has PE underside supports. Because of this, the molded on plastic supports have to be removed:
The mast with PE attached.
There is also a PE radar replacement. It hasn't been attached because it won't stay on dry fit. It's important to note that this item is only about a half inch long.
The main crane also can't be dry fit yet...
Here's a closeup of the PE replacement pulleys and hook and the original over-scale plastic item.
Some very delicate pulleys get mounted to the platform.
Finally, here's the whole midships dry fit together.
Part 5: The Turrets…
Some hollowing of the turrets has to be filled...
The instructions seemed to be reversed in how the railings should mount.
Here are what each of the turret types look like with rails mounted.
Part 6: The Flight Deck…
The most PE heavy aspect of the build is the flight deck. First up is the catapult. The instructions are incorrect again. Here are the changes-- if you build this kit, follow my lead here. Otherwise, there is the potential to glue no less than three items in the wrong spot/ position and really mess up your catapult. Particularly bad are the two platforms (B62) which, if glued according to the original instructions, will hinder you from being able to glue the top section into the bottom section which must fit AROUND the top.
The front pulley must be flipped and mounted upside down from the original picture (see my illustration).
Here is the catapult assembled. Note that I haven't glued the top into the bottom yet (thus the slight gap). This is to make painting and rigging the cable easier.
Next comes the aircraft crane...
And the flight deck structures. On the control house (center structure), one of the folding cuts didn't exist , so it was time for some extra bending on the old Etchmate...
Here's everything dry fitted on the ship...
Here are close-ups of the cradle mounted on the transport carriage...
And that same cradle with an F1M2 Pete sitting on it. I am one of the crowd who can't stand planes molded in clear plastic. It's a pain to figure out if you've got everything lined up because you can't see the panel lines! Interestingly, there is really no reason why the included Petes had to be molded like this. The canopy part is a separate piece, so the rest could have been molded in opaque plastic. You'll see some green in the cockpit area- that is interior green that I put in before closing up the sides. I'll mask off the canopies before painting.
The transparent plastic notwithstanding, the Petes are very nice little kits unto themselves (16 parts each). The Pete is my favorite float plane of all time and I have nearly every model made of this little guy. So I was very impressed with what Fujimi did in 1/350.
Here is the flight deck area dry fit together separate from the ship... but including a Pete. The top wing isn't attached here. The top wing will stay unattached until after painting to make it easier.
Also, PE transport rails will go into those open slots during final construction, as will turntables for the carriages.
Part 7: The Paint…
The hull is primed and I spray some lines on at edges, weld lines, etc. to do some pre-shading. This adds more depth to the color. The color I use is a mixture of red brown and black.
There are two points of note here:
1. My airbrush can spray much smaller lines, but it doesn't really matter in an application like this. Messy chaos is preferred and realistic.
2. The pre-shading is kind of hard to see in "work photography" and without washes to help draw the eye. It'll be more visible in the completion photos.
The gray is Gunze H83 Dark Gray 2, the anti-fouling is Gunze H17 Cocoa Brown. These are the colors listed in the instructions. I prefer Gunze because most of their colors are gloss or semi gloss and the paint is very tough. This makes decal and wash application go much more smoothly.
And with the deck dry fit... The deck still has to be sealed and a wash added, but it looks pretty nice already.
One of the nice things about this kit is the fact that Fujimi didn't simply mold all of the vents, etc. on to the deck. This makes it much easier to paint and prepare the deck because all of those things don't have to be masked off (even easier with a wood deck). The downside to this is that all of those little doo-dads have to be prepared and painted separately...
My personal way of doing things is to clean up as much as I can on the sprue, paint, remove, clean and paint the sprue attachment point, mount to model. Sometimes I remove and clean the parts, and put them on two-sided tape, then paint. But with this kit, there's just so much stuff (that's a good thing!) that I was afraid I'd lose something.
A closeup of stuff like ammo boxes, binoculars, 25mm singles, etc. With Part 18 (top parts), I should have removed the plastic nub between the parts, but this thought completely escaped me until after I painted them (I was in the "Clean Up Zone" and working mechanically). The 25's will receive their gun metal finish after removal (their pedestals are painted gray).
TO BE CONTINUED………