Details Sets for the Matchbox/Revell Flower Class Corvette: David
J. Parkins' 'Great Little Ships' and Sirmar Sets Described
The re-release of Matchbox's 1/72
Flower Class Corvette kit by Revell-Germany has renewed interest in
this class of vessel. Matchbox's initial release of the model in the late
1970s was universally viewed as impressive in scale but quite basic in
detail. However a dedicated enthusiast with considerable scratch-building
skills, references and time could produce a stunning model using the kit
contents as a base.
Not long after the initial release of this Matchbox kit, two detail
sets were released that would save the modeler a great deal of this work.
The first was by SIRMAR, a British maker who is best know for a wide range
of GRP hulls of modern Royal Navy vessels. SIRMAR produce semi-kits that
include a GRP hull and a large number of resin, white metal and photoetch
detail sets. The modeler must make up the decks and basic superstructure
boxes from styrene sheet using plans that frequently came from other companies
such as JECOBIN. The second set was a wonderful collection of cast metal
and photoetch parts by D.J. PARKINS of Wales. This set was available for
some time and then withdrawn for 'upgrading'.
And upgrade they did! The subject of this review is the new D.J. PARKINS
set under the 'Great Little Ships' banner and the popular SIRMAR set that
has been available for about 10 years. A listing of the contents of each
set can be found on their respective websites, so I will not bother to
outline them here. The question most modelers would want to know is "which
one should I get?"
Typical plans - Bridge
Hedgehog Launcher and Bombs
Depth Charge Racks
The sets offered in this range cover just about every visible external
fitting on a Flower Class Corvette, and it has been done with the fidelity
and attention to detail that even the most critical and pedantic purist
would find difficult to fault. I have had the opportunity to examine most
of the sets in this range and photos of the bridge, hedgehog, main gun,
and stanchions accompany the article to give you a good idea of what the
parts actually look like.
Each fitting set is produced in etched brass and white metal parts that
usually number in the hundreds (frequently several hundred!) and come
with full assembly instructions. Colour photos of the actual ship's fitting
are frequently included as a painting guide. The assembly instructions
are explicit exploded diagrams showing the placement of every part. These
diagrams are supported by a written description of the building process
with notes outlining potential areas of difficulty. For those of you who
don't like to read, the diagrams are done in colour with different colours
used to denote parts of different media. The full colour photographs included
in some sets are clear and crisp. I suppose the only thing missing from
these sets is a decal sheet for all of the stenciling found on the fittings.
The brass photoetch sheets are extensive. Every brace, attachment plate,
and support you can think of is included as separate parts. Of particular
note is that the raised detail is etched on BOTH sides of the sheets as
appropriate, so when you fold up a part, you will have detail on both
sides. A great deal of detail has been etched onto the parts, including
all nuts and bolts. If the bolt heads were too small to etch reliably,
the backside of the part has a small etched marking that you use to place
a divot to gently punch a dimple to represent the bolt head.
Different gauges of brass are used as appropriate. I would strongly
suggest that anyone using these sets invest in a folding tool, such as
the 'Hold and Fold'.
The choice of parts included on these sheets is generally well chosen
and suited for this medium. There are, however, a few exceptions. For
example, in one set you are provided with etched blocks with the lines
and falls etched together as a single piece. To get scale thickness, you
are instructed to sandwich three parts together the two outer pieces
have the detail, with the third inner piece as a blank spacer. The pulleys
are well done, but despite the fact that the etched 'rope' has rope-like
texture etched on to the line, it remains flat and unconvincing. Rope
is round so you will need to cut away the etched rope and replace this
with real line (try thread run through beeswax). It may be simpler to
replace the entire block and tackle assembly with a proper cast metal
block (e.g., from Bluejacket Shipcrafters)
and reeve with thread. Indeed, Parkins' could have simply supplied a cast
Another questionable used of etched brass are the etched 'studs' provided
to fit inside the individually cast white metal chain links. Once again,
studs are round in shape so the etched part looks wrong and the whole
idea of fitting individually etched studs is quite inefficient as well.
A little better design would have cast the individual chain links with
a central stud. You would have to simply split the ends of each link to
add the next link in the chain and squeeze shut. Bluejacket Shipcrafters
sells such chain (which works very well) but unfortunately, not in 1/72
White Metal Parts
Each set comes with plenty of these. The casting of these parts is superb
and bursting with detail. The parts show no pitting, no flash, and barely
visible mould lines that will be easy to clean off with a scrape of a
knife blade. Round parts are cast round, not oval due to mould distortion.
A feature of the range is the three sets of stanchions that have cleanly
cast holes cast for the wires. The stanchions come with all clevises and
fittings moulded on.
With these sets everything that is separate is separate. They are for
the person who must have everything. A great deal of research and thought
was put into the sets, which in a word are 'fantastic' They are expensive,
but their scope, the quality of the etching, and crispness of the cast
parts explains their cost. It is likely that if you get one set, you will
be compelled to get all the others. If you only use one set, the crispness
of the detail will be so evident that the remaining parts of your model
will pale by comparison.
Assembly will certainly be time consuming. I cannot comment on their
ease of assembly or to the extent to the fit of the parts because I have
not had the opportunity to assemble any of the sets. The jury is still
out on that score.
The Sirmar sets have been in continuous production for quite some time.
The sets that I am reporting on here have been in my possession for about
six years, but they do not appear to have changed appreciably since then.
The sets are made of white-metal and cream coloured resin. The odd photoetch
part comes with some sets (e.g., gun sights). Most sets do not come with
instructions of any sort and of the sets that do, they are rough exploded
sketches with no colour information.
The best way to describe these sets is to think of state-of-the-art
resin and white metal castings of about 10 years ago. Many of the resin
parts are cast quite crisply and carry sharp detail, but between sets
the quality is a little inconsistent. In a few of the sets, the detail
is very soft, and on the odd part the casting is incomplete. There is
a lot of flash due to mould wear and moulding blocks to clean off. The
white metal parts fare much better, they being quite useable. They carry
a bit of flash but nothing too serious. SIRMAR pioneered the production
of white-metal stanchions with ready cast holes. In comparison to the
PARKINS' stanchions, SIRMAR's stanchions are less detailed as only one
size is available.
The Sirmar sets are simple to assemble. Many parts, such as the gunshield
and barrels are exquisitely cast as one complete piece! Just clean up
and paint. These sets are relatively inexpensive and provide an excellent
basis for super-detailing. The parts as they are accurate in shape and
are much better than any of the kit supplied parts.
Head to Head Comparison
Either set will give you a great start to building a detailed Corvette
and you cannot go wrong with either. The SIRMAR set is much simpler in
design and execution, which is reflected in their price, but that will
appeal to those modelers that like to do their own detailing. They are
produced very much in the tradition of semi-kits that provide the modeler
the basics to work on. PARKINS' sets are considered complete kits that
do all of the hard work - at a price. Check out the extensive selection
of accompanying photos of parts from both sets. The choice of set is up
to you and your modeling style.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A friend of mine who is building these sets kindly sent
along the header image of some of his GLS details under construction -