Building the Matchbox/Revell 1/72 Flower Class Corvette: Part 4 - Getting Started & Basic Improvements

by Bob Pearson

Introduction

I have had many people contact me in regards to these articles and one thing that has come up a few times is how daunting all of those parts look in the box, and where to begin. This time we shall deal with getting started, and some easy fixes to produce a better Flower. All that is required is the desire to do it – and some sheet styrene.

The Hull

Whether you intend to build a display model or one for radio-control, it is imperative to properly prepare the hull. It is provided in four pieces, two bow halves and two stern halves, with an ingenious join covered by the midships plating. I spent a fair amount of time sanding and filing the slightly out of scale keels on all four parts to make them as flat as possible so as to provide the largest mating surfaces possible. Once that was done the two bow halves were glued together using Faller Plastik Cement, and held together overnight with various clamps. The next night I did the two stern halves, and the final night was joining the bow and stern together. After all this was done I coated the interior seam with epoxy.

Vents

The first things I actually built were the vents alongside the funnel and engine room casing. Once they have been glued together and the seams cleaned up, the inside of the vent mouth was reduced using my #10 Exacto blade and the cone shaped Dremel bit. This will result in a nice thin lip to the vent, and makes a vast improvement over the original part. The interior seam was later given a coat of filler and sanded smooth – after this scan was done. The same thing can be done to all of the other vents.

4" gun Platform

The first actual modification to the kit I did was to add the foot tread pattern to the 4" gun platform on the bow. I had seen some great photos of HMCS Snowberry with a radial tread pattern and decided I just had to do it – this is what led to my current obsession with scratchbuilding/accurizing the kit.

I began by using a compass to draw two circles (50mm and 28mm) on the platform. In order to center the compass I put the end of a bamboo skewer in the opening and after cutting it flush, I carefully centered a locating hole in it using the pointy end of the compass. Next was to draw a line through the centre of the platform fore and aft, followed by another perpendicular to the first, this was then halved, and repeated until I had 16 lines drawn. These are where the foot treads will be placed.

For the first platform I built I cut one piece of .010 x.020 styrene to length and kept copying it. For the second, I used a very handy gadget called " The Chopper" this is a single edged razor blade affixed to a lever. There is a metal edge attached at a right angle to the blade, and there are adjustable plastic stops in 30, 45, 60 and 90° angles. By locking these in place, multiple accurate pieces are possible in a fraction of the time previously required. I have made extensive use of mine.

With all the treads cut they were then glued in place using Testor's Liquid Cement. I was using the old square bottle that I have had for at least 10-15 years. . since then I have replaced it with a new round bottle and find the new stuff (active ingredient MEK) is even stronger and fast acting .. but is very potent if inhaled . . I spilt half the bottle and still can smell it a week later. . USE VENTILATION.

2pdr Bandstand

With the main gun platform looking good, I turned to the bandstand on the engine room casing. The first thing to deal with is the totally out of scale splinter shield around the entire structure. I cut this off using the rotary saw with the Dremel. Once the edge was cleaned up I again drew lines on the base for the foot tread pattern. This one has a 'spiderish' style of pattern with straight lines connecting the radials.

With the tread added I then cut a piece of .020 styrene to construct a new splinter shield around the structure. Once this was in place, a .010 x.060 stripe was added along the top edge. If you want to go overboard, emboss rivets on this piece before affixing.

Engine Room Skylight

The kit engine room skylight is too short, too tall and has an incorrect number of skylights. Using sheet styrene I cut two sides (2mm x 60mm) and two ends (32mm x 7mm). The end pieces then had the angle cut in place by centering a line at the middle of the top and connecting it to the side at 2mm height. The four pieces were then glued together and the sloping tops (17mm x 60mm) were added. The edges were sanded smooth and a .060 x .010 border added around the bottom edge.

The skylights were made of a piece of .010 glued on top of a piece of .020. The bottom slightly less in height and width than the cover piece (cover piece: 10.5mm x 9mm). Top and bottom were glued together and then affixed to the skylight. To align them I drew a line approximately 2.5mm from the raised centerline of the skylight. A perpendicular line was added at the centre and the first lid was affixed there. I then eyeballed the two outside pieces and then the one in between. The opposite side was done the same way, with the addition of lining up with the first set of lids.

The handles on each lid were made from .009 guitar strings .. I first bent a 90 angle using some square tipped tweezers about 3mm wide. I then used a pair of pointed ones that taper to about 1.5mm" wide. .. this was what I used to set the centre width. I then cut them to length using the cutter part on my needle nose pliers. To get them on the lid I drew a line through all of them up about 2mm from the bottom. I then placed the rung on top of the cover and marked where the hole should go. To drill the hole I placed a short piece (3mm showing) of the guitar string into my pin vise and used that as a drill. The rung was then placed into its hole using tweezers. They could be left like that, but I gave each a dab of CA on the rear to affix it. It took longer to type this out than it did to do each one.

Hinges are .010 x .020 styrene. I am still debating on what to do for the scuttles. GLS offers a detail set for them, but I don't really want to go that way as I am enjoying scratchbuilding.

Wood decks

The kit provides you with a faux wood plank effect on the entire deck, however the real ships only carried wood decking on the bow, bridge and around the rear depth charge thrower. Therefore the raised planking had to go – actually all raised deck locators also went. The same day I made this decision I bought both a regular Dremel and a Mini-Mite, so I just had to try them for this job.. . they did it, but also added many gouges to the deck. So I decided to scrape/sand the rest of it away from the rear deck. A much better idea, and it didn't take as long as I feared. However I am now thinking it may have been easier to just cut a new deck from sheet styrene.

I searched for suitable wood to use for the deck and settled on laminate strips used for edging tables and shelves. The plan being to cut it into thin strips. . however as I left the hardware store I walked past a five and dime store and they had a packet of coffee stir sticks for $1 . so I bought them as well. Upon getting home I mentioned this to the Corvette Mailing list, and one of them mentioned he had extra Model Expo planks that he could send me if I so desired. .. Heck yes. ..

Eventually the planks arrived. They are 20" long x 3.5" wide and have a plank width of 3mm. Since doing this I have found these planks in various stores and see that they are available in other widths as well. One manufacturer even precuts the planks and reglues them back together in a random pattern so as to not have common grain.

I prepared the bow for planking by drawing a line down the centre, another at right angles to this at the centre of the gun platform mount and a third one forward of the anchor winch. If you intend to have access to the interior for an R/C model, the idea is to plank the bow in two pieces on each of the two decks, with the join being on the centerline. If you are doing a display only, the planking can be done in two pieces bridging the join.

The planks themselves were affixed using 5 minute epoxy. The first one was the strip along the rear edge and then the lengthwise strips were attached, followed by the pieces along the edges. The real ship has a curved edge following the shape of the bow, however I settled on a series of straight lines.

To finish the wood decking I'm using Weather-it by Rustall. It ages the wood nicely as can be seen in these before and after scans of the compass house roof.

The Bridge

I was going to use the kit bridge as the basis for an accurized one using new GLS stanchions in place of the thick railings supplied. When I started to sand away the raised detail to apply the planking I decided it was easier to just make an all new one out of styrene using the kit parts as guides. The deck was planked once the structures were built. Later I'll add GLS stanchions. I'm still not sure if I am going to add canvas dodgers to them or leave the rails uncovered.

The wheelhouse is inaccurate in the number and location of windows. This can be either used as is, or a structure similar to the wheelhouse in last month's installment built. If the latter is chosen, than the height needs to be adjusted to that of the kit part.

The Type 271 Radar platform can be replaced with a thinner styrene piece. The raised pattern on it is actually supposed to be holes, so these should be drilled into whatever platform is used. The diagonal supports under the platform can also be made from thinner stock.

Storage lockers

A new signal locker was built from styrene with individual compartments in it. The same can be done for most of the kit supplied lockers. I built a new combination beef/vegetable locker from .060 angle and brass mesh. For later Flowers these are in two separate components, so I still have to do more of them for my other two Flowers.

Doors, Ladders and other Fittings

The kit doors are pretty basic, and can be dressed up by adding dogs and handles to them.. Or new ones can be built in their place. For my ships I built two styles of doors, watertight, and non-watertight. Here is where "The Chopper" came in handy. . all of my doors have the same dimensions.

The watertight doors began with a XxY coaming. Each corner was rounded slighlty and then the door itself was made to be about 1mm within its boundary on all four sides. To this was added hinges from .010 x .020 strip. For the pivot of the hinge I placed a small section of heat-stretched sprue at the rear of teh hinge. Dogs were made from other pieces of HSP glued in place.. I thought about using 'L' shaped brass wire and affixing them to overlap the door, but balked at that one. The handle was made in the same way as for the engine room skylight.

The non-watertight doors started by drawing lines in the centre for where the central brace will go. Then .010 x .020 strip was glued on the vertical edges, leaving a .020 gap at teh top and bottom for teh cap strips later. The central braces were glued to the centre of the door, followed by the diagonal bracing. The top and bottom stripes were then added. The last step was a small square .060 square of .010 glued for the handle locator, and the handles are the round section rod that came with the kit for the rails. Note that the doors are handed, with the handle being at the lower of the two lines in the centre.

"The Chopper" was also indispensable in making my ladders. I cut a full package of .015 x .060 strip into rungs for the ladders. A jig was made to align them properly from out of a 3/16" square piece of styrene. I cut a series of slots into it equidistant apart and all at a shallow angle. The rungs were placed into the jig and held in place by a piece of .080 angle against one side. The exposed end of each rung was then affixed to an .020 x .060 upright. After a few minutes the piece was slid over slightly and the other side added. If a ladder needed to be longer it was removed, and replaced with just one or two rungs in the jig allowing more to be added between the uprights

The ammunition davits on the bow are shown as solid pyramids. I drilled two holes into each side and cleaned them up so they don't appear quite as thick.

Ship's Boats

The boats supplied with the kit can stand some extra detailing. For a complete description of adding an interior see Part Two: Building a 27' Whaler, the kit dinghies were done the same way. Another option I have seen is to apply a canvas cover to the boats.

Armament

The armament is a whole new area, and much work can be done improving the kit items. So far I have done the following

– Scratchbuilt a new hedgehog
– Accurized the 2pdr
– Scratchbuilt a 4" Mk.IX BL gunshield and kitbashed the gun inside
– Scratchbuilt a 4" Mk.XIX gun and kitbashed the gun

I still have to make new depth charge racks, so when that is done I shall present all of them at once.

Conclusion

I think that about covers the basic conversions to the Matchbox/Revell Flower. For those who have been following this, here is what my progression has been to date

– Built first kit OOB – tore it apart and rebuilt as an RCN Flower with. ..
– All new open bridge, gunshield, planked decks, bandstand, hedgehog
– Got second hull and did that to the same basic RCN standard
– Went back to first hull and after successfully making the minesweeping gear I converted it to a short focsle
– Made deal for third hull...
– While waiting for third hull I made the Mk.XIX gun and platform
– Still waiting, so I did all the bridge structures, and started planning the work to do on the hull.

So it now looks like the first hull has become the short focsle HMCS Wetaskiwin. The second hull will be a late war Modified Flower, while the third will be either a typical mid war RCN Flower (making use of the items I originally built), or an RN Flower not using the RCN conversion items I have already done ... should be a nice collection when I get them done.

Addenda

In the past I have mentioned that I was planning on a series of ALPS decals of various RCN Flower gunshield artwork. I finally sat down and tried it .. first up is HMCS Snowberry for those of you building the kit. If anyone would like a set, please contact me and I shall let you know the particulars. Other RCN artwork is also available – those done so far include: Arvida, Eyebright, Shediac, Shawinigan, Drumheller & Wetaskiwin.

I would like to ask that anyone with spare engine room vents (the four around the skylight) please contact me