This is a quick build of the Battle Axe 1/144 scale kit of USS MONITOR. The kit represents her as stripped for action as she was when she fought CSS VIRGINIA (EX USS MERRIMACK) at Hampton Roads, March 9th, 1862. The kit has the usual shortcomings of a limited run kit such as thick sprue and numerous ejection pins but neither is hard to fix. The plastic is soft and easy to work and most of the pins can be left in place as they are inside. The dimensions are just slightly over scale in both length and beam, but close, and the kit seems quite accurate. The real ship was 172 feet long with a 41 foot beam. In 1/144 scale this would be 14 5/16 inches long with a beam of 3 7/16 inches. The model measures 14 7/8 inches and 3 11/16 inches respectively. The kit consists of 47 light gray plastic parts and two etched brass parts. Unlike many short run kits, this one has locating marks for the placement of each part, a plus. I used ship photos and the book "Rise of the Ironclads" by George F. Amadon as a reference.

You first glue the anchor well, propeller housing, and four bulkheads to the lower hull. Then you are directed to glue the sides to the bulkheads. This is not correct. If you do that the sides will be sandwiched between the lower hull and the deck and they really should wrap around the perimeter of those parts. I glued the deck to the anchor well and bulkheads being careful to keep them lined up. I then joined the two sections that make up each side. I also trimmed the offset where the side halves join so that the sides would fit flush against the hull and deck pieces. You must bend the sides as you wrap them but this is easy. I started at the bow and worked aft, gluing with liquid cement as I went along. The sides are a bit too long and must be trimmed at the stern.

All the deck details were added as shown in the instructions and I added a bow flagstaff of brass rod and four little cleats. These cleats can be made up from plastic scrap but I had some tiny brass ones in my spare parts box. I added them to the outside of the deck, both sides, just inside the outer armor bands, one pair 2 3/8 inches forward of the turret center and one pair 3 ¼ inches aft of that same center.

Be careful when building the turret, there are some small problems there. There is a locator tab in the middle of the turret front to align the floor but there is no matching notch in the floor piece. I simply cut a notch half way between the gun tracks. The other problem is that the instructions show both guns run out. The original MONITOR could not do that because of the way the interior gunport lids swung to the center. Only one port could be open at a time. I ran one gun out and glued a scrap of plastic over the inside of the other port to represent the closed lid. I bent the ladder arms inward and glued the ladder to the turret. It looks OK but you may want to find a more delicate one in your spares. I glued the turret in place so it would not come loose at some inappropriate time.

The anchor in my kit was not complete. Plastic did not fill the mold for the one set of arms. This was easily corrected with scrap plastic. The only other change that must be made is to shorten the four blades of the propeller. As supplied they would hit the keel extension and not turn.

Painting is easy. I painted the entire bottom with red paint darkened a little with black. Then I masked off the waterline, which should be about 1/8 inch below deck level. That just covers the second row of rivets from the top. I airbrushed the model flat black. When that had dried, I applied some Bragdon Enterprises weathering powders to bring out the detail because that monotone black does not look good. I went over all the black lightly with a very dark gray, highlighted a few areas with a lighter gray, and worked in a very little rust around the bitts and chocks. The last paint was gloss brown on the flagstaffs to represent varnished wood. The stern flagstaff seemed a bit too long according to any drawings I could see so I shortened it by 5/8 inch. The kit is supplied with a printed flag in the correct 34 star configuration. This was cut out, folded in half and glued, creased to make it look like it’s fluttering, and glued to the aft flagstaff. It is slightly glossy so a shot of dull kote works to make it look better.

The photos show the model at this stage. The kit also includes a stand, which I did not use because most likely this model will end up in a diorama. Conclusions: If you want an injection molded plastic kit of USS MONITOR that is quite accurate and easy to build, this is it. The biggest drawback is the price tag.

Bob Santos

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