Hood Scapa Flow 1940.jpg (28858 bytes)
HMS Hood at Scapa Flow 1940
HMS Hood

white_ensign.jpg (4649 bytes)

Iron Shipwright and White Ensign Models
1:350 Scale Kits

Rob Mackie

Let me preface my comments by saying that both the Iron Shipwright (IS) and White Ensign Models (WEM) 1:350 scale HMS Hood kits are superb. Choosing between them is an exercise in nitpicking, so if you expect me to tell you that one of these Hoods is God’s gift to modeling while the other is hopelessly deficient, stop reading here. It’s not going to happen. I would be very happy indeed to find either of these models under the Christmas tree, but alas they are on loan and must be returned. With sufficient effort and loving care, either Hood can be turned into a stunning replica. If you buy one of them and are unhappy with the end result, you have only yourself to blame, because there are no serious accuracy or detail deficiencies in either kit.

It should also be mentioned that neither model has been "prettied up" for this article. Both of them passed through several sets of hands before reaching me, not to mention suffering dents and breakage thanks to the US Postal Service. Consequently both kits are more banged up than a model received fresh from the manufacturer. I’ve endeavored to photograph both kits in their entirety, and in such a way that the reader can assess each producer’s treatment of a given part. The photo gallery follows this article.

Instructions and Presentation
The WEM Hood has far better instructions. They are well illustrated and accompanied by clear, helpful text. It is not often that I characterize assembly instructions as enjoyable but these most definitely are. Dave Carter’s step-by-step assembly is a pleasure to read and will be especially appreciated by less experienced modelers. There was no parts list and the plans normally included with WEM Hood kits were missing in my sample. This was likely attributable to the plans being removed by a previous owner.

The IS Hood instructions rely primarily on two-dimensional drawings with minimal text. They are adequate, if rather spare, and in places I found them confusing. They do include an illustrated parts list, though quantities are omitted. Neither plans nor illustrated painting guide are included.

Cleanup and Preparation
Most of the cleanup on the WEM Hood has been done for you. This is unusual in a resin kit and White Ensign is to be commended. The waterline hull comes pre-primed in dark grey and there are no large resin plugs to remove.

The IS Hood is a one-piece full hull model. Iron Shipwright has pioneered the casting of large one-piece hulls. However the modeler must remove the resin sprue along the keel. This is not overly difficult. More to the point, it is far easier than mating an upper and lower hull, a problematic step on a capital ship model. The hull halves sometimes shrink at different rates resulting in mismatched upper and lower hulls. Fixing this can be a daunting task, so the one-piece Iron Shipwright approach is preferable if you are partial to full hull models (Editor's note: White Ensign has advised me that the full-hull WEM Hood comes pre-mated. All mating, sanding and filling are done prior to shipping, so in effect it is a one piece full hull kit). The downside is that Iron Shipwright does not offer a waterline option.

You will have to remove casting sprues from many of the IS Hood resin parts. This is not unusual on a resin kit. What is unusual – not to mention impressive - is how little cleanup the White Ensign Hood requires.

Resin Casting and Master Pattern
Casting on the White Ensign kit is both clean and competent. Voids and pinholes are minimal. Many of the WEM parts appear thicker and/or heavier than their Iron Shipwright counterparts. The bulkheads and splinter shields in particular are much thicker on the WE Hood. I prefer the consistently thinner and crisper look of the Iron Shipwright versions. Iron Shipwright has a reputation for aggressive casting and it shows in the thin, in-scale appearance of many parts. A resin producer has to assess the benefits of aggressive casting (impressive appearance, sharper parts with more detail) against the drawbacks – technical difficulty and a higher rejection rate. White Ensign has taken the more conservative approach while Iron Shipwright has been more aggressive. Study the photos to see the difference. There are more voids in the IS parts but not enough to make me prefer the more workmanlike White Ensign casting approach. Like everything else in modeling this is a matter of personal taste. Study the photos and decide for yourself.

Shelter Deck small.jpg (12311 bytes)Both kits are commendably accurate. I prefer the IS shelter deck treatment (click adjacent photo for a closer look). There is more cast-in detail and the funnels extend through the deck rather than sitting atop, as they do on the WEM version. There are other minor accuracy differences. The WEM turrets lack bolt detail, though Hood kits from later production runs have corrected this omission. The starfish on the IS kit is more accurate. Again, later iterations of the WEM kit have corrected this. The improved part as well as other refined details are available from WEM at additional cost for those who purchased a Hood from WEM’s first production run. WEM’s later Hood kits include the revisions at no additional charge.(Editor's note: see below for some of the upgraded parts now included with the WEM Hood at no additional charge)

Etched Brass
WEM provides more etched brass, and much of it is beautifully relief etched. This is most impressive but a mixed blessing. Rather than casting certain details such as watertight doors into the hull master, WEM executes them in etched brass. Affixing these photo-etched pieces requires more effort on the modeler’s part. The finished result will no doubt be beautiful, but is the WEHoodPE02 small.jpg (16981 bytes)marginal increase in sharpness worth the considerable extra effort? Another example: the degaussing cable spanning the hull perimeter is cast into the IS hull, while it is an etched brass part (and a very long one!) on the WEM kit. But the WEM part is very fine and "in-scale" while the IS degaussing cable is heavier. Which do you prefer-the finer WEM cable that requires far more effort to affix or the cast in – and slightly heavier – IS treatment? Similarly WEM has rendered the aft superstructure bulkheads in etched brass (pictured at right). I prefer resin versions as on the IS kit. Brass bulkheads create more work for the modeler with no significant gain in crispness or accuracy.

Selecting a clear "winner" is beyond me. Both kits are superb. Resin newcomers will prefer the WEM kit for its outstanding instructions and the lack of cleanup. WEM’s instructional "handholding" is far and away the best in the business. I dislike guesswork in an expensive kit and WEM does away with it in their Hood. Bravo!

The IS Hood is more finely mastered and takes better advantage of resin’s ability to capture fine detail. I much prefer resin to etched brass as a medium in which to work. There is something "unfriendly" about brass no matter how well done. Affixing photo-etch is my least favorite part of ship modeling, and one can expect to do a lot more of this with the White Ensign Hood. Detail should, if possible, be part of the master pattern rather than an additional brass part. In this respect I prefer the IS Hood.

These are both expensive kits. The IS Hood (full hull only) sells for $510 if purchased directly from Iron Shipwright. WEM’s Hood is available direct from WEM at a cost of US $540 (waterline) or $645 (full hull). Both WEM and IS post their kits free of charge anywhere in the world. And both have well-deserved reputations for excellent customer service.

These HMS Hood models have been available for over one year, and both producers have made great strides since their release. Competition has led to steady improvement from these companies. The pattern quality of the WEM 350 scale Sheffield (released subsequent to their Hood) is their best 350 scale model yet while IS has improved its instructions. They still aren’t up to the level of WEM’s impressive documentation. WEM kits are very polished in their overall presentation. In this respect they have set the standard for cottage industry producers.

IS kits, rougher around the edges and requiring more cleanup, are crisply cast and very well mastered and engineered. So flip a coin or make your decision based on the vendor with whom you prefer to do business. You’ll be very happy with either of these fine models. Building either will be most rewarding.

For further information contact

Commanders Models, Inc.
Iron Shipwright Series
551 Wegman Road
Rochester, NY  14624
Phone: 1-888-IRONSHIP  (1-888-476-6744)
Email: dparis@eznet.net

White Ensign Models
Gardeners Cottage, Cowarne Court,
Lower Eggleton, Ledbury,
Herefordshire, HR8 2UF, U.K.
Email: xdt22@dial.pipex.com

Click thumbnail image to view full size picture

A Selection of White Ensign Upgrade parts now included with WEM Hood

WEM PE upgrad.jpg (36777 bytes)
Additional brass fret
New WEM turrets.jpg (37307 bytes)
Newly master turrets
New WEM up proj.jpg (23016 bytes)
UP projectors

Forecastle.jpg (47229 bytes)
Forecastle plan view

Forecastle3.jpg (58352 bytes)
Quarterdeck.jpg (46998 bytes)
Aft Searchlight Platform.jpg (20212 bytes)
Searchlight platform
Main Bridge Superstructure.jpg (37692 bytes)
Main bridge superstructure
Fwd shelter Deck.jpg (21578 bytes)
Forward shelter deck
Conning Tower Platform.jpg (20105 bytes)
Conning tower platform
IS Misc.jpg (63395 bytes)
Misc small pieces
Spotting Top.jpg (21602 bytes)
Spotting top
Shelter Deck.jpg (67399 bytes)
Shelter deck
Pompom.jpg (14469 bytes)
Starfish.jpg (23283 bytes)
Boats.jpg (52152 bytes)
Boats and launches
Guns.jpg (36166 bytes)
Main turrets and barrels
HoodHulls11.jpg (19810 bytes)
Plan view hulls
4in guns.jpg (14554 bytes)
4" mounts
WE Small Parts.jpg (45576 bytes)
WEM Hood small parts
Searchlights Carley UP.jpg (31688 bytes)
Searchlights and floats
Stacks.jpg (19665 bytes)
Hood04.jpg (39104 bytes)
IS Hood: all parts
ISHoodPE.jpg (107355 bytes)
IS Hood etched brass
WEHoodPE01.jpg (150111 bytes)
WEM Hood etched brass (1 of 2)
WEHoodPE02.jpg (67958 bytes)
WEM Hood etched brass (2 of 2)
Hood05.jpg (22575 bytes)
IS Hood: forecastle
Hood02.jpg (38019 bytes)
IS Hood: midship
Hood07.jpg (35086 bytes)
IS Hood aft
Hood06.jpg (24164 bytes)
IS Hood aft closeup
WEHood08.jpg (52231 bytes)
WEM Hood forecastle
WEHood10.jpg (35004 bytes)
WEM Hood forward
WEHood09.jpg (31429 bytes)
WEM aft
WEHood12.jpg (32454 bytes)
WEM midship