Philip Reed is an accomplished British master modeler of large-scale, museum-quality (or better) ship models. Although web searches and some book selling sites spell his first name with two Ls, his name is Philip with one L. Trained as an artist, and having a teaching career gives Philip the right background for this book. Philip started scratch-building WWI and WWII warships and switched to a long and successful career building sailing ship models. Philip Reed has at least three other books explaining how he builds wooden sailing ships. This book details his return to building WW2 steel warships from scratch – no kit used. Everything was made by hand from raw materials, with a sprinkling of generic photoetch brass. His latest book, Waterline Warships- An Illustrated Masterclass, is from Seaforth Publishing, a venerable British publishing house obviously devoted to nautical books.
For his initial book on building a steel WW2 warship, Philip chose the Royal Navy (RN) Destroyer Caesar, a Ca-class wartime emergency destroyer, as commissioned in late 1944. He chose this particular vessel at the request of a client. The scale is 1/192 (16 ft to 1 inch) – what I consider a large scale for warship models. The book is approximately 7.5 by 10 inches, and a fast read at 128 pages, profusely illustrated with high-quality photographs of nearly every step of construction. Indeed, the pictures alone are almost sufficient to reproduce his handiwork – they are that illuminating.
Philip starts with basic facts of the ship, and a very short section on research – an essential start to any scratchbuilding project. He describes his switch from paper files to electronic storage on computers, but he still relied on paper plans to build the majority of the ship. The book is divided into sections, mostly on building the subassemblies such as Hull, Bridge, Funnel, Armament, Boats, and other fittings. The book is laid out this way since the building was not chronological – shifting between subassemblies going on simultaneously is the most efficient way to build. He also has a short section exhibiting his previous steel warship models.
The most important part of the book for me was his workbench setup and list of essential tools. Surprisingly, his list of must-haves is relatively short. He stressed getting the best of whatever you need – worthwhile in the long run. I have learned the same thing the hard way, and this easily overlooked information is the most valuable. Of course, that means more cost than most of us may be able to incur, but if you want building to be easier and more fun, it is sound advice. How he has his workbench setup is truly a Master Class on efficiency gained from long years of experience – painful lessons that we comparative novices can learn from to make us better modelers.
The model itself is incredibly accurate and detailed – you will have to see for yourself how he did it. Although the scale of 1/192 is much larger than the more popular 1/700-1/350 scales and his materials are wood, paper, brass and plastic, his techniques are applicable for the most part to smaller scales. In essence, he has recreated the ship and its fittings very close to scale, something that cannot be done with 1/700 scale. The other gem of this book is his use of specialized architect paper to craft many hard-to-make pieces and add fine details. I cannot wait to apply this new-found knowledge to my favorite scale (1/700) and a current scratchbuilding project. In adapting Philip’s techniques to small scales, use of aftermarket and photoetch pieces is advisable instead of scratchbuilding everything. After seeing his techniques, it gives confidence that you can make almost anything you want to.
He used a different approach to making water (for the ship model, not the bodily function). Carving wood was not a candidate for depicting the sea to me before reading this book. (A useful spinoff from his decoy-carving days.)Again, his experience teaches us new techniques. It makes sense and has some advantages over messing with plastic goop. He did use epoxy putty to add details and merge the wood with the model’s hull. Philip used his artistic training to paint the wood with Humbrol enamels to look translucent.
Although I had feared that this book might be self-indulgent showmanship, it is not. Philip Reed uses his teaching career to show us how to build better models. He endeared me to his viewpoint with the following observations. First, it is the enjoyment of building and finishing a project that drives us to model – in other words, it should be fun. Secondly, and most poignantly, he recited a quote from Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs: “Problem solving is hunting, it is savage pleasure and we are born to it.” Happy hunting.
This book is recommended for any warship modeler who wants to upgrade their skills, techniques and aptitude. Beginners can learn a lot, and non-scratchbuilders can ramp up their game. I was pleasantly surprised at the wealth of experience taught – all in the name of having more fun building better models. The price is relatively steep, but serious modelers will find this book a bargain for the priceless experience, tips and encouragement.
Thanks to Seaforth Publishing and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this publication.