The 1/700 Hamilton FRAM by JAG is a pleasantly challenging build of an interesting, out-of-the-mainstream subject. The kit is suitable for intermediate and higher skill levels, though is designed such that you need not have extensive experience with resin and photo-etch (PE) to build a nice looking ship.

The kit shows the usual high quality casting by JAG. The ship's bottom is dead flat. The detail parts are molded on to two sprues, with three other parts cast onto a thin sheet of resin. Be careful removing the parts from the sprues, especially the two masts. The casting is very fine and it would be easy to slice off one of the platforms from the mast with a slight slip of the knife. I cut the individual chunks from the sprue and then very gently nipped away at the resin flash to free up the part.

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The instructions are clear and assembly is straight forward. The detail parts appear to be largely Skywave cover tunes, though the included Jayhawk seems to be different than Skywave's parts, showing the slightly wider, rounder body of the real thing as opposed to the Skywave part which always looks too thin to me. The Hamilton comes with enough railings to detail the entire ship. You also get radar, helicopter netting, mast details and a few other detail parts as PE. The PE is easy to work with, brass (not stainless steel) so it is easy to bend and place. Decals are provided with every hull number and ship name in the class, as well as the distinctive Coast Guard orange-red slash on the hull.

The challenges in this kit are two-fold:

(1) The graceful side pieces between the two decks that give the Hamilton its distinctive lines are each separate photo-etch parts. JAG recommends gluing a piece of stretched sprue onto the deck to use as a guide for the parts. On my kit I installed railings first and then laid in the side pieces using the railing as a brace. On the real ship the side pieces and railings are flush with each other, but I am willing to consider an inaccuracy the thickness of a 1/700 piece of railing as a fudge I can live with. I pre-painted the area behind the side pieces, and the back of the pieces themselves, and then installed them. A little super glue helped fill in any slight gaps. I then sprayed a final coat of white over the whole assembled side to give it an even look.

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2) White. One thing that attracted me to this model was a desire to introduce some color into my collection of gray, gray and grayer ships. The white hull and superstructure, coupled with the orange-red markings and deck details, really sets this ship apart. The challenge I found was that white is a very unforgiving base color. White paint (for me at least) does not cover well, so I had to build up the opacity with many thin coats of paint, walking a fine line between paint coverage and not obscuring the delicate details with gobs of paint. Also, when masking off areas of white, say for the black rear superstructure, white does not allow for even a little bleed-through under the tape. Expect to get really good at masking or really good at touching up.

The kit builds up well right out of the box/tube, but I made a few additions: I drilled out drainage holes at the bow of the ship, I added hand wheels to the deck near the anchor chains, I added two .50 machine guns port & starboard, I included various whip antennas near the bridge and on the masts and added some rigging. The figures you may see in the photos are also added, and come from Gold Medal Models, US$5 for 100 figures. I also added some ladders. Otherwise, the PE you see all comes with the kit.

While the kit is not for beginners, it is appropriate to new-ish resin builders (for a first resin kit, consider the Hamilton's sister, the Bear by JAG, similar in design and execution but with fewer parts and simpler PE). The instructions are clear, almost everything you need is supplied and the kit builds up into a nice piece without the need for scratch work. Try this as a second or third resin kit if you are looking for something more colorful than gray on gray. Peter Van Buren

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