IJNS Yamato, Part 4, Final Assembly
Now that the major subassemblies are complete, it was time to put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. I naively thought that it would all be downhill from here, even if it was a gently sloping downhill. I didn’t quite realize how many lengthy flat spots there would be along the way.
The larger assemblies of superstructure, stack, and main and secondary armament structures fell into place easily with good, secure fitting. I had numerous smaller 25mm AA turrets and directors (all assembled and painted in mass earlier) still to place, as well as many open 25mm triple and single mounts still to assemble and place. By late in the war Yamato had over twenty single mounts placed along the deck, from far aft to astride her main turrets. While the kit offers enough triple mounts, it only gives you ten singles, and only six PE deck mounting plates for them. I had to scratch together four more mounts from the unused kit PE pieces, as well as my PE morgue. And while we’re on the subject of PE, there was still a lot (as in a LOT) of PE still to place on the model, plus numerous other detail pieces to arrange over the superstructure and deck. All in all, a considerably more time-consuming process that I anticipated at first glance. Particularly frustrating to place was the series of fixtures that honeycomb around the 5” open gun mounts. In all my years of looking at images of Yamato and Musashi, I never noticed these before, and still don’t know their purpose (some sort of drains or gutters, maybe?). Nevertheless, they were at times difficult to fit into place, often requiring considerable trimming and repeated test fitting to get correctly (or even closely) aligned into their proper place.
At this point, there were also the catapults and aircraft crane to construct, as well as the mainmast. The catapults were relatively easy, even with all their small PE attachments. The crane was more complex, being constructed almost entirely of photoetch parts. It was a minor endurance test, folding and fitting all the intricate parts. Once the crane was constructed, I temporarily took leave of my senses and decided to rig it. There are almost a dozen pulley wheels in total on the crane, and I used Uschi stretch nylon line to weave the crane cables back and forth from pulley wheel to pulley wheel. Shaky hands and twitchy fingers didn’t help this process, but after a couple of days it finally was done. My copy of Yamato: Anatomy Of The Ship proved invaluable here with a rigging diagram included in the detail section of the ship’s crane (it proved its worth many, many times showing where things went on the ship). The mainmast is a delicate, Y-shaped structure with long photoetch ladders running from top to bottom of each of the mast’s projections. This structure, with its grey lower half and black upper, was a challenge to mask and paint without pulling it apart. All these structures, once completed, were set aside to be attached after the ship was securely set in its sea base. The same went for the main deck railings and many of the small deck fittings like davits, anchors, chains, and small AA guns. Knowing how much handling it would take to get the ship on its base and “in the water”, I knew many of these parts would never survive the experience if attached too soon.
Getting the model set in its base proved to be another process that I severely underestimated the time and effort needed to complete. Normally with my ship models, I cut the hull bottom off at a point a little below the waterline and set the upper hull in place on a flat board. This time, with the hull halves screwed together with interior metal braces, I elected to keep the full hull and set it into a base made from thick Styrofoam layers. Turns out that it may have been easier to just cut the hull and work to my traditional method. I had marked off the three-deep 3/4” Styrofoam sheet layers with a hull outline and cut it out just a little oversized to “make it easy” to slip the hull into place. However, I failed to allow for two things: there are longitudinal keel runners on either side that project out from the lower edges of the hull, and the hull has a slight tumblehome that makes it wider at the bottom than at the waterline. So I found myself Dremel-cutting the runners from the nearly fully assembled ship, then alternately trimming the Styrofoam cutout and trying to wedge the ship into it. Talk about “handling the model”! Once this process of gentle persuasion was done, I had to fill in the now rather wide gap at the waterline between the hull and the base with slivers of Styrofoam shaved off the excess pieces. That done, I sculpted and painted the water base. I’ll describe my process for making this water base in greater detail, along with the steps for making the display case in an upcoming article in the IPMS Journal.
Once the model was securely set in its base, I really was on the steepest side of the downhill slope. Late in the build I had discovered and purchased two sets of sailors by ION of Poland (Set 1: IJN Chilling On Deck, and Set 2: IJN Carrier Personnel and Pilots. I had to laugh, for one thing that Japanese sailors were NOT known for during the war was “chilling on deck”). Nevertheless, these 3D printed sailors are an excellent addition to any ship model, made in a wide variety of realistic stances and positions. About 140 were placed in various groupings, walking and working throughout the ship. I even managed to place a few goldbricks “chilling” in an out-of-the-way corner of the ship. Having sailors on a ship at sea really brings it to life.
The remaining assemblies and pieces, large and small, were added (along with all the bits that I’d managed to break off along the way). The kit supplied anchor chain appeared too small to my eyes, so I replaced it with something a bit larger from my stash of craft store purchased chains. I did use short sections of the kit chain for the smaller support chains used to help secure the main chain (thanks again AOTS. I never would have noticed that without those detail illustrations). At the last minute I decided to add a couple of the small boats (among the dozen or so included with the kit) to add a little extra interest to the deck activity. My intention had always been to rig the antenna wires from my nearly new spool of Uschi thread, but I managed to somehow lose the free end, and the spool became a tangled mess where I was never able to pull off pieces long enough to traverse the long runs from mast to mast to mast. So that last step will have to wait until I can find a replacement.
To say that the completed model is impressive doesn’t really do it justice. I’ve seen a few 1/200 scale ship models at shows, and they are always attention getters. The Yamato will probably be the leader of that pack, at least for the time being. They are, however, exercises in patience and stick-with-it-ness. The parts count on this model, particularly the photoetch, is exponentially beyond anything I’ve done before. No doubt a good modeler could have completed this build in half the time it took me. The kit is not without its minor faults - mostly in the details, like the simplistic canvas covers for the gun mounts, empty cable reels and the short supply of single 25mmAA guns and mounts. But perseverance on this model will reward the builder with a spectacular example of Japan’s mightiest warship. My sincere thanks go out to the good folks at MRC for providing this model to IPMS for review, and to Reviewer Corps honcho Phil Peterson for convincing me to take this plunge.
Obviously you were the correct person to attack this review; I am learning in retirement I have more to do and less cash/time to do it... (waaaah). People don't understand drive and dedication to your goal... good to see you have it! Well done and maybe see you at Pima! I'll be there...