picture of the I-401 box art picture of the I-401 sprues

Lee I-400 class submarine carrier
2005-09-02 Project start

So, you chaps want me to build a carrier? One of those great big things that neither fly nor look fast, and are either in a scale too small for appreciable detail, or too big to fit in the room? Right. This call for creative cheating.

Enter the Imperial Japanese Navy. One of their boffins came up with the idea of using a submarine to launch an airstrike. The express purpose of these ships was to launch aircraft into combat, so yes, they are definitely carriers. Also, since they're submarines, they're basically big grey sausages with a conning tower on top. Should make far a nice and fast build..

The I-400 class isn't exactly the best known boat in the water, so I expected some difficulty getting my hands on a kit. I was pleasantly surprised however, to find one on eBay almost immediately. Granted, this is as much a toy as it is a model, but like I said, what can go wrong with a grey sausage.
The producers of this kit intend for it to be watertight and motorised, complete with a clever mechanism to make the boat dive and surface repeatedly, but I'll pass on those aspects. Mine is going to be static, and that implies all the machinery can be left out, and any gaps stuffed with filler. And boy, are there going to be gaps. The plastic parts are crude, fit isn't too great, and the main hull alone is made up of seven parts. The design is such that it is supposed to be possible to open and close the hull to change batteries, so some rubber gaskets are planned. I don't want to deal with those, so the space they're supposed to occupy will also be considered a gap to be filled.
At this time, the hull is assembled, has had it's first serving of filler, and is in the process of being sanded. Unless you've ever worked with it yourself, you won't believe the mess you can make when wet sanding red plastic. Yuk! I've also stuck the wings on the airplane included with the kit. Its a good thing I know its supposed to be a Seiran, otherwise I wouldn't have guessed.

I've abandoned the Seiran, as no amount of work is going to make it look acceptable. The sub itself is now completed, and as I feared, it needed monumental amounts of filler at every seam. Other that that, there were no real problems with it. Detail is largely non-existent, which helps prevent problems, but also makes for a rather sad kit. On the bright side, the chances on being hit with AMS on this boat are zero.
Painting was essentially uninteresting, although it did provide welcome practice for putting long, straight lines on a kit using an airbrush. The result is seem below.
Now, I should point out that I don't really know all that much about these subs, but all images I've seen so far give a very sleek impression, and this thing looks fat and squat. It is possible that the true shape of these boats on photographs is mercifully hidden by water, but I suspect the shape of the kit is dubious.

Picture of the completed kit

The meeting

picture of a carrier by Chris Ravenstijn picture of a carrier by Chris Ravenstijn
picture of a carrier by Chris Ravenstijn picture of a carrier by Chris Ravenstijn
picture of a carrier by Chris Ravenstijn
All the carriers above were built by Chris Ravenstijn
My own I-401 French Carrier by Joop Ruijzendaal
My own I-401 French Carrier by Joop Ruijzendaal
Unknown (to me at least) aircraft by Arnold Cremers Something Luft46-ish by Jeroen Emke
Unknown (to me at least) aircraft by Arnold Cremers Something Luft46-ish by Jeroen Emke
A Swordfish by Luuk Boereman A Venom by Luuk Boereman
A Swordfish and a Venom by Luuk Boereman
Crusader by Adriaan Kaars Starfighter by Jaap Delis
Crusader by Adriaan Kaars Starfighter by Jaap Delis
Die-cast Starfighter also belonging to Jaap Delis Die-cast Starfighter also belonging to Jaap Delis
Die-cast Starfighter also belonging to Jaap Delis
Ferrari by Anton Kalf Some of the locals getting some work done
Ferrari by Anton Kalf Some of the locals getting some work done
picture of the Seiran box art picture of the Seiran sprues

Tamiya Aichi Seiran
2005-09-26 Project start

An aircraft carrier without identifyable aircraft is a hopelessly sad thing, and besides, I'm into aircraft, not boats. So, a proper kit of the Seiran was called for. The first one I stumbled accross was an old Aoshima kit I found on eBay. To my chagrin, the quality closely matched that of the carrier. After some industrial strength grumbling, I went looking for an alternative, and found that Tamiya had a high quality kit of the same subject, which I bought, and banished the Aoshima horror to the garbage can.
So, a Tamiya Seiran it is. As can be seen from the parts, it is a relatively straightforward little kit, almost a third of which is taken up by the beaching trolley. I can't vouch for the accuracy, but detail is very nice, and everything is very cleanly moulded, and I expect no problems during construction.

I've begun painting and assembly of the cockpit and interior, and the floats are assembled. The instructions said to place some ballast in the nose of the plane, but I chose to put it in the front of the floats instead. Let's hope this works out. I've also started work on the trolley, which I will probably be using to align the floats correctly.

The trolley has been built up to the point where it can be used to align the floats. It has also been painted in totally disgusting zincchromate yellow. And then it was painted again, and again, and yet again... this paint completely refuses to properly cover even light grey plastic. I realise yellow isn't the strongest colour, but this is just ridiculous. Maybe it would have worked better from an airbrush, or with a coating of primer underneath, but straight from the jar onto naked plastic with a hair brush is no fun.

The instructions indicate that some weight is needed in the nose of the plane. While this might be a logical place, there's supposed to be a really heavy engine there after all, I figured it would be just as effective, and much easier, to put the weight in the tips of the floats instead. To this day I'm not sure I was right about that, however, as somewhere along the line I also took an overdose of stupid pills and added weight to the nose as well. I so hate it when I do that..

picture of the Seiran decals
Cockpit from front Cockpit from rear

The cockpit is nicely detailed, and the folks at Tamiya have most thoughtfully supplied decals to represent the straps on the seats. Being thin, narrow decals which had to be placed in an irregularly shaped cavity, they put up quite a fight, but this is only to be expected, and the result is quite pleasant.

My optimism about construction of this it has proved to be unjustified. The canopy is about 1mm narrower than the fuselage. I can't shrink the fuselage, and neither can I widen the canopy. Sticking it on as it is going to look horrible. I asked around on RMS for a solution, and Stephen Tontoni suggested getting a vacform canopy from some aftermarket outfit. Some more digging followed, and I got my hands on a new canopy from Pavla - which is completely useless, since it has exactly the same dimensions as the one that came with kit. I now have two well made, but useless canopies, and no idea how to get a roof on the Seiran. I'll ask around at the IPMS meetings that are scheduled for next weekend, and see if anyone has a bright idea.

picture of a glueless test fit of the floats

No bright ideas were forthcoming, but the brainstorming did put me on to the solution to the problem: brute force. Just plain squeeze the fuselage while the glue on the canopy sets, et voila, one properly fitting canopy. For obvious reason, this required the use of the canopy that came with the kit, not the thinner vacformed one, so I now have one surplus aftermarket canopy on my hands.
picture of the sinkhole in the tail Over the past year I've discovered a few more drawbacks of this kit. For one thing, there's a really nasty sinkhole in the tail section, as shown in the picture to the left. I also had to apply quite a bit of force to get the radiator cowling to fit into the slot between the wing and the engine cowling. Come on Tamiya, you can do better than this. I don't mind a kit putting up a good fight, and I'm certain the result when assembled will be a beauty (barring screwups on my part), but this is a very recent kit, and technical problems such as these should be a thing of the past.
Still, despite the gripes and interference from other activities, the Seiran in progressing surely, if slowly. Just to get an idea of what the result might look like, I parked the floats on the trolley, and the fuselage on top of that, as shown in the picture above. The tape over the canopy has nothing to do with masking, rather, it is there to protect the canopy against scratching during the rest of the work. Given the amount of fiddly bits on the bottom, this kit is going to spend quite a bit of time on it's back, and it rests on the rim of the canopy in that situation.

Somewhere on my non-existent list of new year's resolutions is finally finishing some of those kits that seem to have taken up permanent residence in the building pipeline. This has become one of those, and as it's closest to completion, the first one to be re-activated and hopefully finished.
Aside from the bomb rack, the fiddly bits at the bottom have been fiddled, and the floats have been attached to the wings. Once the glue has properly set, I'll finish the cockpit, close the canopy, and shoot primer for a final pre-painting check. I think I've got it, but I've thought that before and had to return to filler and sandpaper. We'll see if I'm right this time.

The plane checked out, and is now in the first stages of painting. The lower half has received it's coat of grey, and the front halves of the floats are now green, along with the leading edge of the float legs. The box art made it seem as though these had simply been sprayed from the front, with any green hitting the sides considered either acceptable or desirable, so I tried to emulate this. I'm still wondering if that was wise. The floats get in they way of their own painting, so in the future, I'll try to keep the wings as clean as possible when airbrushing.
The beaching trolley is now complete.

I finished airbrushing today. This time round, I remembered to check the kit before removing the masking tape, and found that, once again, some parts needed a thicker coat of green to reach the desired effect, a far cry from the times when I dumped so much paint onto kits with the airbrush that teardrops resulted. Must say I like this better..
Tomorrow, I'll take off the masking tape, and learn if the kit is ready for finishing, or still in need of serious work.

The airbrush work has turned out nicely. That leaves the various pointy bits that stick out of airplanes (antennas, pitots), the big fan at the front, and the bomb, before I can get down to decals and finishing. Oh, and of course the birdcage canopy. Painting the frames is just not going to work, so I've started working with painted decal paper again. After several hours of work, it occurred to me that this was going to prevent me from ever putting masking tape over the canopy again, and that as a result a final coating of varnish was going to be impossible. Fortunately, the paintwork already has a nicely even sheen to it, but this is entirely donw to good luck. I'll have to think long and hard about the correct build and finish sequence next time I deal with one of these, as I don't expect my luck to hold.
The kit itself sprung a few more unpleasant surprises on me. The one-size-fits-none polycaps that hold the propellor in place need to be cut down if the front cone is ever going to fit. Nothing major, but at the very least the instructions should have mentioned this. Worse, the decals for the yellow leading edges of the wing are too narrow. They are wide enough to cover the top of the wing, and most of the curve, but not enough to properly wrap around to the lower side of the wings, and because of this, they refuse to bend with the curve of the edge. A return to the scraps of decal paper and airbrush seems called for.
I'm beginning to like the use of painted decal paper more and more. If used correctly, it also makes a very good way to do spot repairs on any airbrush paint job.

Remaining finishing was uneventful, and although the finished kit lacks the uniform finish a final coating of varnish would have supplied, I'm still quite happy with the result.

Front view of the completed Seiran Front view of the completed Seiran

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