Build Notes

USS SSN-21 Seawolf Attack Submarine
Scale: 1/144

Started: 23rd Jan 2005
Finished: 25th Feb 2005
Update: 30 Jan 2005
Having built the Trumpeter 1/144 Kilo class sub previously, I was well aware that the size of the hull caused loads of problems with flex when it comes time to fill and sand the lateral joins. On the Kilo kit, I was forced to solve the problem by filling the entire hull thru the conning tower hole with plaster to give some rigidity.This was because I only found out about the flex problem after I had the hull joined !!

Learning from that experience, I used a different method for this kit. Namely, I used the spare sprue to create a series on internal braces for the top and bottom sections of the main hull. Bear in mind that these two pieces of plastic are nearly 2ft long !!

The white "loops" inside the lower hull are going to used as anchors to hold a 1cm layer of plaster in place. I decided that it would be good to have some weight in the bottom of the hull..
Update: 05 Feb 2005
The joining of the main hull sections resulted in some nasty gaps where the nose and tail join on. Plastic card, super glue and trusty Tamiya basic putty do the trick.
Update: 08 Feb 2005
Starting to take shape now. Heres a picture next to a 1/48 Skyhawk for size comparison !
The conning tower also gets some attention with a little bit of detailing. When complete this area will also have a clear windshield.
Update: 14 Feb 2005
Once I attached the fins to the tail, a problem that was not noticeable until now, became apparent. The tail is not correctly aligned to the hull. This is a Trumpeter issue as I attached the tail section to the hull using the locating pins provided.

I seriously thought about leaving it alone and living with it, but after a day of chewing on it, I decided that it had to be fixed. The tail had to be removed completely and rotated about 5mm anti-clockwise.

I used my trusty Olfa-P Cutter tool (which I normally use for panel line scribing) to make the cut. As a guide I placed Dymo tape around the hull. This all worked a treat. The tail was then re-attached in the corrected position.

A word of advice. When you build your kit, attach the tail fins and the conning tower with tape temporarily to provide a reference. This way when you mate the hull and tail, you can ensure the vertical and horizontal alignment is correct !
Update: 19 Feb 2005
With all the body work complete and the seams hidden to my satisfaction its time for the first colour coat.

Starting from the bottom, the hull red is applied. Trumpeter suggest a dark, wine red but my research of USN subs leads me to believe its more of a orangy red. To this end, I mixed a blend of Humbrol H60 and H18 in a ratio of 2:1. Due to the sheer size of the model, it took a whole tin of red (H60) and half a tin of orange.

The pictures below look much more orange than the real thing. Who says pictures never lie !
Once this lot dries, it'll be onto the upper hull with dark gray and finally black.
Update: 20 Feb 2005
While the hull red was drying, I did some investigation into the masts. It appears that Trumpeter have got it pretty accurate in this area, with one exception. The AN/BRA-34 communications mast does not carry the disruptive pattern on the top and should be a light greenish blue (say Duck Egg Blue). The Trumpeter decal has a way too greenish colour. To correct this, I simply painted the mast with H23 Duck Egg Blue and will not use the decal.

With the hull red dry, it is lightly sanded to smooth the finish and to blend the edge. After a quick clean down, its onto the masking. Following masking comes the application of the second of the three hull colours. Humbrol H32 Dark Gray is used and covers the hull to just above the waterline when the ship is on the surface.

Interestingly, the Trumpeter painting guide does not mention that the upper hull consists of two colours. They indicate you should simply paint the upper half as dark gray. I have included a reference photo in todays update which clearly shows the two colours.
Update: 22 Feb 2005
With the gray colour on, it was now that I realised that in fact it was going to be best to lay down the top hull black, mask it and then paint the grey. This was due to the masking that had to be done between the black and gray. I always find it easier to mask the inside of tight curves, rather than he outside.

So it was that I laid down the top black (after painting and masking appropriately the white circular markers dispersed along the top of the hull). Once this dried, I masked it off and retouched the gray to complete the major painting. I must admit, now I have the black to contrast the dark gray against, I think the gray should have been darker. Perhaps with weathering this may be achievable. We'll see.

Next steps, gloss coat (Future), decals, panel lines, flat coat and finally weathering. Today is Tuesday, its doubtful I'll have it ready for this Saturdays club meeting, but you never know :)
Update: 23 Feb 2005
Several light coats of Future polish (gloss coat) have been applied and allowed a couple of hours to dry. The Trumpeter decals appear thin enough, however I found that they need some decal softening solution (I used Daco) to get them to conform to tricky shapes.

Observations about the decal markings is that the fonts used for the ship number (ie 21) and the lettering for "PROJ" appear to be wrong (when compared with reference pics). If you have the ability to create your own or have a sheet of more accurate generic lettering, then I'd suggest using it.

I've read several reviews by others making this model and they found fault with Trumpeters decals for the masts. My opinion is that whilst the colours are a bit bright, the overall effect is fine for 1/144.

Last update, I had doubts about the lightness of the gray I used. Now with the gloss coat on, I am convinced that it is too light. I reckon it would need to be mixed 50/50 with black to be about right. Oh well, live and learn.

Next steps: Leave decals to dry, seal decals with gloss coat, panel line wash, flat coat and oil wash for weathering.
Update: 27 Feb 2005
Well, its all finished. A few late nights and some early mornings meant I got it finished for the club meet on Saturday :) As you see it here, the model has unddergone several heavy washes of oil paint (Burnt Umber + Lamp Black) in order to tone down the poblem I had with the lightness of the grey.

Even though you cannot tell anymore, I did perform a panel wash with Neutral Gray (i didn't take any pics as this was during one of the late night sessions). The neutral gray has long been hidden under the oil washes unfortunately.

All in all, I'm reasonably happy with the end result. There are a bunch of things I'd do differently if built another one. Luckily for you dear reader, I'v documented the nastiest of these in this article !!