|If warships are indeed the loveliest of man's machines, then the
battleship is the fairest of all. I would argue that the Imperial
Japanese Navy super battleship Yamato
is the ultimate warship. A grand claim, but supported by the Yamato's size, powerful guns,
and graceful lines. Just the fact that Yamato
and her sister ship Musashi were the largest
battleships ever built lends her a mystique and grandeur beyond the reach of other
dreadnoughts. Designed to defeat any other battleship in a gun engagement, its designers
could not foresee the day when this leviathan would be overwhelmed massed air power. Tis a
pity that these two super battleships could not have tested their guns against the
battleships of the US Navy in one last blaze of glory that would have served as a
fitting end to the battleship era.
I'm a Yamato buff, a necessity if one is to take on the Lifelike kit. It features early 70's engineering and detail, and 60's-era parts fit. The kit has over 400 parts, and the instructions appear to have been written and drawn by a high school dropout. Over half the parts are not even mentioned in the instructions. Why did the previous owners not build this particular kit? Why not just build the Tamiya version? Read on.
I embarked upon this 2 year love/hate ordeal when my local model club held a clearance sale of models belonging to the collection of an Air Force officer. There, among big old Pyro and Heller sailing ship models sat the 1:350 scale Lifelike Yamato, in a box nearly a yard long. I marveled at the sheer size of the thing. Being a strictly 1/700 scale modeler, I was awed at the girth and length of the hull molding. And what seemed like dozens upon dozens of parts sprues. What a kit! I had to have it, and, eventually I did get it - and for a song. What a deal! Not necessarily...
There is no consensus regarding the kit's manufacturer. Lifelike marketed the kit with its own
"instructions", but judging from the Japanese-language Yamato plaque, it's safe
to assume Japanese origin. Some theorize that it is early Nichimo or Otaki. If anyone out
there knows the answer, please share it with me. Because this model is very much out of
production, I am not going discuss corrections and improvements. More than likely you will
never need to know. If you do own it, however, and have questions, feel free to contact me
directly at JGordon262@aol.com .
By the one year mark I had poured many hours into this model. In retrospect, maybe I should have deep-sixed this beast and gone on to something more satisfying. But I hated wasting all that effort, and she wasn't looking all that bad. It would be overstating things to say that I was growing fond of my Yamato. My feelings were more akin to acceptance, sort of like being trapped in a bad marriage one hopes will eventually become tolerable.
superstructure now featured a completed bridge, funnel, aft bridge, antennae array, and
rings of guns. And it helped that most visitors asked me how the "big
battleship" was coming. My dad especially kept bringing it up, and I'd have to
tell him it was aging in the model cellar. It is an obvious people pleaser, even for
those with no interest in models whatsoever. So I kept at it, working on her now and then
with the pie-in-the-sky notion that perhaps some day the whole would exceed the sum of the
parts. That is all I could realistically expect, because some parts - mainly the guns -
are minimally detailed by modern standards- and the guns are a very large part of this
Early on I determined that the rough nature of this kit did not justify the Gold Medal
Models Yamato photoetch set. I can see now that I could have saved much work had I used
the GMM sheet. That's the beauty of hindsight. However, I used the $35 I saved to buy two
bottles of tequila, which provided much more inspiration than a sheet of etched brass ever
could. As it was, I had a sheet of GMM railing in 1/96-1/200. This stuff was too big, but
I decided that if I cut it in half lengthwise I could use it as two bar railing, then all
I would have to do is add the third bar, along the middle, from stretched sprue. This is
what I did. It worked, but the results are a tad rough on close inspection. Fabricating
the main radar array was likewise extra work. I used two lengths of 1/700 railing glued on
top of each other, two of these assemblies per side to create the mattress frame effect. I
also used a lot of 1/700 railing with the center bar cut out to replicate railings on the
turret tops and other places. I could have saved much time here too with the GMM set. Lets
face it, I did this the HARD WAY, no doubt
about it. I spent next to nothing on this build, just used whatever was within reach at
the time. This ad hoc approach shows in several places. For instance, converted 1/200
railing sits next to converted 1/700 railing. However, these mismatched scale parts seem
to work quite well together on the finished product. "Look at the forest, not the
trees, Grasshopper ..."
For specific details on my building techniques please refer to my other articles on the Warship site, the IJN Battleship Mutsu, the IJN Cruiser Tone, and the USS Cleveland. I used the same building and painting methods discussed in these earlier articles.New to this model, however, was the use of brass tubing to depict the 8" and 18" gun barrels. The kit parts were unusable. I wanted to exaggerate the 18" guns a bit so I went overscale on these. I like the overscale look very much. It is very easy to work the brass- cut it with a razor saw, and chuck it into a Mototool to shape the ends with a file or emery paper. The finished but unpainted brass barrels are beautiful to behold and give me a sense of craftsmanship that plastic or resin just cannot deliver.
As I entered the final stretch I could not help but be very proud of what was sitting on my workbench. Many hours of nose to the grindstone drudgery had resulted in an impressive, acceptably accurate, and convincingly detailed model of the world's greatest battleship. This project gave me a renewed patience and perseverance, and strengthened my belief that given sufficient time and effort, almost any kit can be made into a beautiful display piece. Anybody have a 1/200 Nichimo Yamato for sale at a reasonable price???
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