I am an old, out of the box, get it on the shelf type of fellow. Im so old that I still have an unmade Renwal Shangri-La now thats old!
Ever since I bought my first 1/700 kit (the Saratoga) Ive been hooked. I had avoided resin kits for years on the theory that if I waited long enough, someone would release it in plastic. When I went to the IPMS Nationals in Orlando I saw resin kits for the first time and more importantly I saw the Loose Cannon T-2 tanker. I could not believe the excellent value and the detail, so I bought one each of everything Dave Angelo had right on the spot!
Still, I waited until the APA Haskell to actually attempt building one. This is my first attempt at a complete resin kit, but I figured that I could follow directions as well as the next guy.
The first thing you notice about Loose Cannon kits is how similar they are to plastic kits. They prefer to cast most everything in resin (no white metal or brass rods) and they are cast on a sprue. So those of us fearful of anything not plastic are comforted right away. The second thing you notice about the Haskell is parts, parts, parts, parts. As I built this ship, for the first time in my life I thought that I might actually "sink" the ship from the severe weight of the numerous landing craft, davits and booms. Luckily the Haskell has defied gravity and remained afloat. It is because of the `cluttered look of these converted victory ships that makes this an excellent starting point for someone afraid of tackling a large multi-media kit. That is, the clutter helps to hide mistakes in the "confusion". This model is so `busy looking that even if you leave off the photo-etch completely you would still have a decent display model.
I did not match paint chips prior to painting. One thing I learned in Vietnam is that the same paint color sometimes didnt match right out of the can much less after fading in the sun for awhile. So I took a can of hardware store gray primer that was close to haze gray to use as my base coat. The mold release agent was hard to overcome, in spite of a thorough pre-washing of the parts. After a light sanding, I still had some puddling where the paint did not stick. Only by applying several very thin coats was I able to overcome this problem and get a smooth coat. I sprayed all parts and the photo-etch with this same gray to start. For the decks I sprayed Modelmaster Dark Sea Blue for a start. I later go back and touch-up or fill-in with brushed on Polly S paints.
Lesson one: The instructions require review of all of the sheets not just the one you are working on. They always say, "read all instructions first" but after 40 years of model building I have always ignored that warning. Well, now Im a born-again instruction reader. The drawings are important for locating correct position and to avoid confusion.
I was determined to do this kit exactly from the box, so that meant I could not ignore the large photo-etch fret that comes with it. In fact, you must tackle ladders and railings right from the start as you assemble the superstructure. At first this was sheer frustration but then I discovered my foam backed sandpaper. This is about a 3-inch square of ¼" foam with grit applied to one side. By placing the part to be bent on top of this foam (grit side down) and using my #11 Exacto blade I was able to painlessly make my bends at any angle. In fact by placing the deck part on the foam I could eyeball where the railing needed to be bent. The amount of pressure applied determined the angle and by pressing hard you could almost fold the parts over without cutting into them. I was able to pre-bend my railings without measuring or using calipers. Each deck took no more than a few minutes to add railings. The decks are a little thick and I would have beveled the outside edge if I were doing it again, however do not sand the bottom down as this would affect the scale height.
Lesson two: You need bright lights and magnification to avoid going blind. Much of my time was spent with my nose up against my magnifying light. A vise to hold the model and Exacto extra-hands with filed-down clips is almost a necessity to avoid giving your model a flying lesson!
I found the instructions generally easy to follow but some of the drawings led me astray. The construction of the superstructure was straight forward, with a good fit. Loose Cannon molds-in positive locators for major parts, again, very similar to plastic kits. My first mistake was with the strong-backs that fit to the outboard davit arms. I failed to refer to the detailed drawings on another page and instead I glued them flush with the bottom of the davit arms. These strong-backs should hang perpendicular to the surface as boats will be suspended from them. Mine point out at an angle.
The instructions call for gluing the life rafts at this point. I did these later, however the drawing at instruction number 5 incorrectly illustrates the life-raft positions. Refer to the detail drawings first. The four rafts next to each other should be on hull aft of the superstructure, not under any LCVPs. The many photographs available on NavSource of Haskell class APAs show these positions with a fair degree of consistency.
The armament details, kingposts and booms were next. The armament is delicate and as close to scale as I have seen lately. The quad forties looked a little funky prior to assembly but they looked good once they were in place. The 20mm guns were molded in resin and the gun shields were photo-etched. The 5-inch was a one piece molding which some of you may want to substitute. I found it adequate and to scale.
Lesson three: Carpet, even white carpet, is the Bermuda triangle for 1/700 20mm gun shields. Only my vacuum cleaner will ever know what happened to some of these.
Without a doubt, the hardest job for me was gluing the 20mm gun shields on. In retrospect I wish I had shaved the barrels clean of the tiny bits of resin flash with the back of my Exacto blade prior to this operation. It was very frustrating. Additionally I should have snipped or sanded the 20mm pedestals shorter, but by that point I never wanted to see them again. A nice touch by Loose Cannon was molding the guns in different elevations and providing double the number shields needed plus a few extra guns. I had no shields left over.
The gun directors are nice two piece assemblies. The forward quad forty tub has a lip molded underneath so bending and attaching the photo-etch supports was a breeze. Both kingposts arms support four booms BUT ONLY THE AFT KINGPOST HAS A CENTER BOOM. This is not clear in the instructions. Further, the large aft boom on the centerline requires guy wires. The position of these is not clear and only after looking at several photos was I able ascertain their positions. There is one forward of the kingpost on the centerline. It is anchored between the boats stored there. The three wires are separated just about as they appear on the fret. The other two go to a point on the deck just inward and slightly forward of the 20mm gun tubs abaft the kingpost. The wires on these are close together, simply pinch them that way and they will stay. The photos show no support wires on the forward kingpost.
Another mistake I made on the kingposts was the blob on the starboard side atop the boom support crosspiece. These did not show in the drawings and I thought it was a molding channel. In photos these appear to be covered lookout stations. They sort of look like an elongated air-siren and each kingpost had one. To correct my mistake I took two hose reels from one of my Japanese parts sets and using a #11 blade, see-sawed back and forth between the reel ends removing the molded-in hose relief. I then cut off one of the reel ends so that it looked like a cylinder with a cap on it. To tell you truth I think they look more effective than the originals that I had mistakenly discarded.
Next came the fun with beautifully done photo-etch tackle assemblies for the booms. With my handy-dandy piece of foam, making the five-folds necessary to form the block and tackle assemblies was easy. Mounting them was a pain. Most APAs always showed the booms stowed upright. I decided to have mine at different angles. Loose Cannon gives you several different lengths of block and tackle, however you must still cut them to fit. This means removing the block on one side, cutting to length, then gluing the block back on. Much time would have been saved if additional shorter lengths had been provided thus eliminating this cut and paste operation. The end product adds much to the `busy-ness of this ship and looks good.
The instructions call for a short piece of brass rod to be glued to the sides of the short cargo booms. I opted for stretched sprue here. I have since discovered Evergreens tiny plastic rods. I may never stretch sprue again or mess with brass rods (maybe Ill finish my Pit-Road Taigei now that I dont have to use brass). Also, my topmasts were warped below the crownests and this portion was replaced by stretched sprue. The searchlight platforms on my funnel were not the same size but the addition of railing and searchlights hid this. I cut my searchlights too high and was too lazy to correct it.
At this point I touched up with Polly S Neutral Gray. If you look at any original color WWII photo of a ship you will always see places that have been touched up because the paint doesnt quite match. I think my overall effect was good. Likewise no two rafts ever seem the same. I painted mine darker to stand out. Again original color photos show the rafts never matched the ship nor each other. Some were lighter, some were darker. Most APA photos show the ships overall gray but many carried other measures, take your choice. The instructions call for black funnel top and on the tops of all masts and booms aft of the funnel plus the two vent pipes forward of the bridge. This appears to be a late- or post-war kind of thing. I chose not to do that, nor to paint the bottoms of the landing craft. You may choose either.
The boarding nets must be cut to a 5mm width and there are three per side. I painted them dark blue on one side, brown on the other. The dark blue gives a shadow effect on the inside because they do hang off the sides a bit. Loose Cannon includes a droop on the bottom rung, so make sure you cut with this in mind, I missed this detail. Photos show three to four pieces of lumber on each net to provide both rigidity and as a spacer between the net and the hull. These can easily be added with the aforementioned Evergreen plastic rod. I bent my nets at the top so they would hang on the gunnel. This is probably more prototypical plus it makes positioning them very easy.
I have to mention the excellent job Loose Cannon did on the landing craft. You get more than enough plus some Higgins boats. I loved the Higgins boats so much I put two on. Call this artistic license but they look really great. The last thing I did was hang the four LCVPs from the strong-backs. I simply cut a left-over piece of block and tackle from the fret and laid it my foam. Then I took an LCVP and firmly pressed down until the tackle piece formed along the bottom of the LCVP. This operation was enough to hold my "slings" in place while I joined them at the top to the suspension block and tackles provided on the fret. This part was actually easy. Gluing this assembly to the bottom of the strong backs took more time and patience.
I spent about 17 man-hours on this kit. Super-detailers could grow old embellishing this model. I love the result! It is a very "busy" ship and next to the Skywave Liberty ship, it is very impressive. It scales out well and is a great addition to the fleet! As you can tell from the write-up I did not stray from the instructions very far. Loose Cannons photo-etch fret includes anchor chain that comes as individual links. After the 20-mm shields, I passed on assembling these. Considering the number of parts (plus extras!) and the resin market in general, this is an excellent value at $50.