Ernie Shafer submitted this build report of his great looking USS Monitor kit. It’s great to see unusual subjects like this- a nice break from the typical.
The USS Monitor needs little introduction having firmly secured its place in history as one of the participants in the first ever battle between two ironclad armored warships, which occurred during the United States Civil War. The Monitor was the Union’s contender in the battle versus the Confederate’s CSS Virginia. The battle proved to be inconclusive with both vessels scoring hits against the other, but neither vessel was damaged enough to be put out of commission. Sadly though, neither vessel would ultimately survive to see the end of the war.
The USS Monitor’s design reflected a giant step forward in the design of warships that endures to this day. The Monitor was designed with a single revolving turret that housed two 11 in. Dahlgren cannons, the first vessel to successfully do so. The benefits of this were immediately obvious; the turret could be rotated to face the enemy, instead of maneuvering the entire vessel to place the guns on target. The turret had its own small steam engine to provide the power to rotate it. The hull of the Monitor was designed to have 18 inches of freeboard; that is only 18 inches of the hull were exposed above the water. The turret itself was nine feet high, thus the whole vessel presented a very small target. One other notable innovation featured aboard the Monitor was the first known use of a below the waterline flush toilet!
After her one and only battle against the CSS Virginia, the USS Monitor remained in the South on blockade duty on the James River until being called back to New York for overhaul. In November 1862 the Monitor returned to Hampton Roads for blockade duty and in late December was ordered to Beaufort, North Carolina. On the 31st of December while under tow to its destination, the USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with the loss of twenty crew.
Verlinden Productions released a nice resin kit of the USS Monitor in 1/200th scale several years back, which is the subject of this review. The kit is typical of Verlinden’s resin kits; well molded, nicely detailed, free from air bubbles, but with large casting blocks on many of the parts. The kit contains only 18 parts plus a sheet with a pair of printed flags and a piece of plastic rod to make the jack staffs. The instructions are a ½ page showing a photo of all the parts with an exploded view of the turret assembly. The construction notes are very basic and offer no painting instructions. While the instructions may be sufficiently adequate for the experienced builder, the less experienced modeler would probably want a littler more guidance.
The hull is covered with nicely rendered plate and rivet detail, as is the turret exterior. Overall, the initial impressions offered by the parts are favorable and the kit certainly looks to build up easily.
The first order of business was to remove the large casting block on the hull and turret. As these were quite substantial, out came the ole’ Dremmel Tool with a course sanding drum, which made quick work of this task. The kit provides a credible amount of detail for the turret interior (as well as using the majority of the parts in the kit), so this was tackled first. The turret interior was sprayed flat white with Model Master Wood for the floor. While this was drying the cannon carriages were painted British Crimson again from Model Master while the separately cast barrels were done in Black Chrome Trim. When the barrels were dry they were dry brushed with Metalizer Gunmetal to impart a slight metallic sheen. The barrels were then assembled to the carriages which in turn were placed into the turret. This is the one area where I deviated from historic accuracy with regard to the placement of the guns. In actuality only one gun would be forward in the firing position at a time. To emphasize the turret with its twin guns I placed both guns in the firing position.
The supplied turret roof support structure is cast as a single piece on a wafer of resin that is very difficult to remove with out damaging the structure. In the end I chose to scratch build the roof support structure in place inside the turret from Evergreen Styrene strips. Once the roof beams were in place, the kit supplied support rods were carefully located. The support rods were painted flat black and the roof beams with Model Master Wood, and drybrushed with Model Master Leather to add a wood grain texture.
At this point most of the construction is done! The turret roof was temporarily attached with tape and cannon barrels were masked in preparation for painting the exterior of the model. Model Master Gloss Navy Grey was the color of choice. This was airbrushed on and allowed to dry for about two years seriously! This way when I applied the Burnt Umber oil wash I did not have to worry about the paint lifting! Once the wash was dry the locations for the jack staffs were drilled fore and aft and the supplied plastic rod cut to size and super glued into the drilled holes. These were painted flat black. One of the kit supplied printed flags was cut out and secured around the rear jack staff with white glue, the rear edge was also distressed and tattered a little with an X- Acto knife. The entire model sprayed with Dullcote for the final finish. As a last step to impart a metallic sheen the entire model was dry brushed with Metalizer Gun Metal. The recessed deadlights molded into the deck were treated to a drop of Tamiya’s Clear Blue to give the impression of thick glass. For a final weathering step the edges of the hull and random areas of the deck were lightly dusted with rust colored pastels.
Since the kit is a waterline model, it really needed to be mounted on a base. For this I used a piece of 3/8″ plywood, beveled the edges and attached some Mahogany veneer which along with the top of the plywood was sealed with a couple coats of varnish. I planned to display the model tied up to a floating mooring, so the edges of the hull were masked with tape and set into place. The water was made with Acrylic Matte Medium. This material is used by artists; it has the consistency of paste and dries clear. A layer about 1/8″ thick was applied to the top of the base and around the hull of the model and allowed to set up for several minutes. To achieve the wave texture a disposable soldering brush was stippled into the surface of the Matte Medium producing a random wave texture. After allowing the “water” to dry for several days it was painted with acrylic craft paint using a turquoise color for the base and then washes of a darker blue applied. The wave crests were lightly drybrushed with white. As a final finish the base was brushed with Tamyia Clear using a soft flat brush.
After all was dry, the hull of the Monitor was attached to the base with 5 Minute Epoxy. Because of the thickness of the tape that protected the hull during the sculpting of the water, a slight gap existed between the two. This was simply filled with Elmers Craft Glue; which is nothing more than good ole’ Elmers Glue. It dries clear and slightly glossy so the gap (as long as it is minimal) becomes invisible and if a little happens to smear onto the side of the hull it leaves a little glossy area that looks like a wave washed along the hull.
The floating mooring was made from a small piece cut from a wooden toothpick to simulate the wooden float of the mooring. A piece of tan thread was attached between the float and the deck chock of the Monitor to simulate the mooring line.
Verlindens USS Monitor kit is very nicely done, and very well detailed with a minimum of parts. The kit goes together very well and aside from the interior roof framing of the turret, construction poses no problems at all, in fact if one chooses to simply glue the turret roof in place then dealing with that would be a non-issue. This kit could be easily recommended as a first resin kit for a modeler who has never attempted a kit in this medium before.