Arizona 1921 Box Art.jpg (29424 bytes)
(Box art by Lee Thornhill)

USS Arizona

Build-up Review
Jeff Herne

(Editor's Note:  Photos of kit components and instructions can be found at the end of this article.)

With their tall cage masts, minimal AA fits, and lots of open deck space, pre-war battleships were distinctive. The 20's and 30's were peaceful times for the US Navy, and conventional thinking  was geared toward big-gun battleship duels at long ranges.   The threat from the air had yet to be taken seriously, so the AA fit was at most an afterthought.

Tom's Modelwork's  USS Arizona (1921) is a "sleeper". It sits there looking rather unimpressive, until the very end. It's not until you've finished the weathering and rigging that this ship shows her real beauty. The kit arrives with a large, cleanly cast hull, several bags of resin and white metal fittings, and a very nicely done brass sheet. My initial response was very good; the brass cagemasts especially caught my eye. So now it's on to the build-up.

Click thumbnail to see full size pics of Jeff's completed USS Arizona

Arizona 1921 16.jpg (65125 bytes) Arizona 1921 18.jpg (52362 bytes) Arizona 1921 17.jpg (35674 bytes)

Construction  Hull preparation was easy, there being only a few scattered pinholes. Casting is very good; most parts have small resin blocks found in most resin kits. There is no required construction sequence; you can begin almost anywhere. I chose to build my Arizona in subassemblies, each of which is a small kit in itself.  I find this makes the buildup more interesting, and enables me to fool myself into thinking I am making progress.

Cage Masts  Tom provides a resin former around which to wrap the brass cage mast. Avoid overlapping the cage mast edges, which will cause a heavy seam.  The edges should butt up against each other. I cut a strip of wax paper and inserted it between the brass and the resin jig, wax side facing out, then glued the edges together with superglue and kicker. The wax paper prevents you from affixing the brass to the resin jig. Any paper that adheres to the brass is easily removed.  A word of caution: Once you have the cage masts glued together, they are very fragile. If you squash one, it will be nearly impossible to restore to its original shape.   So be careful...this sounds like the voice of experience here, hmm? The cage masts come in several sizes; the forward mast is shorter than the after one to compensate for the lower quarterdeck. The brass sheet provides you with two  of these aft cagemasts, so practice on one before trying the forward mast. If you damage the forward mast, cut down the redundant aft mast and use it as a replacement.

Fighting Tops are molded in one piece with a solid interior. The channel can be painted black, and the brass installed, or you can cut the roof off, drill out the area, and install the brass and roof to "hollow out" the top. I would not recommend this modification to novice modelers, as resin is brittle and unforgiving.

Director Position  This part is also molded in one piece.  Paint the recessed area black and apply the brass window framing. I both opened up and hollowed out the part, and then used the brass framing to support the roof. It looks great, but I would not recommend this step to novice modelers.

Flag Bridge   If your kit is from the first production run, check the location of the locating disk upon which the forward cagemast sits.  Draw an imaginary line across the ship at the forward edge of the escape scuttles.  The back edge of the disk should touch this line. If it's not close, then remove the disk and relocate it so that it touches the line between the escape scuttles. Tom's Modelworks has corrected the problem and inserted a note in the kits. Why bother fixing this error? If you don't, there will be insufficient space between the cage mast and conning tower to fit the flag bridge assembly.

Navigation Bridge  Cast as a single piece, a little scratch-building will enable you to detail the open areas. Tom has provided an additional brass piece for the window framing. This is a simple scratchbuild, and can be handled easily by most modelers. The results are impressive, especially after you detail the interior and add Kristal-Kleer to the windows.

Anchors Arizona carried three anchors, two on her port side, one on her starboard side in the forward hawsepipe.

Turrets   Check the sizing of the turrets on the barbettes.  If the turret are too small, add sheet styrene to the bottom to widen the turret bottom. Turrets 2 and 3 each had 'flying off' platforms for aircraft, refer to references to scratchbuild if you choose. Tom's Modelworks will be sending a brass and resin update part to all owners of 1921 Arizona kits later this year. These turrets also had ranging marks on the lower half of the turrets. Paint the lower half of the turret black, use white decal strips or dry transfers to do the increments and numbers.

Boat Racks  These are very delicate assemblies, take you time and be patient, the results are worth it.

Range Clocks    Decals are included for the range clocks.  I suggest you affix a small styrene disk just below the searchlight platform upon with to mount the range clocks.

Galley Stacks  Use brass tubing to create 2 galley smokestacks on the after deckhouse. Refer to plans for height.

After Deckhouse  Add railings around the top

Finish   Ships of this era were kept very clean so keep your weathering should to a minimum. I painted the Arizona Polly-Scale USN Light Gull Gray, it matched well enough after applying pastels. I used pastels both to shadow and highlight, as well for light weathering. The ship was rigged with nylon quilting thread, and the water simulated with acrylic gel.

Conclusion   If you enjoy pre-WW2 warships, the Tom's USS Arizona (1921) is a must-have. It's an easy build as 1:350 capital ships go, very accurate, and most importantly captures the 1920s "look" of the early Arizona. This is first ship kit that didn't frustrate me in one way or another.  I actually enjoyed construction from start to finish.  I would not recommend this kit to a beginning resin modeler, as the cagemasts can be tricky if you're not accustomed to working with brass. The modeler with a resin kit or two under his belt should have no trouble with this beauty, however.

The model is available from Tom's Modelworks for $225, with the waterline version priced at $200.

For More information contact

Tom's Modelworks
1050 Cranberry Drive
Cupertino, CA.  95014

Phone: 1-408-777-TOMS  (1-408-777-8667)

Forecastle Plan View.jpg (18777 bytes)
Fore Deck
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Midship profile
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Small resin parts
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White metal
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Etched brass
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Instructions (12 pages, of which 8 are shown. Very complete. Nice job, Tom. Editor)
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