Late War PT Boat - Page 33 - RC Groups
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Nov 15, 2012, 10:10 PM
If you cant find it Build it!
Wow that looks great John!
Nov 15, 2012, 11:29 PM
Registered User
I've read this entire thread, and have a few things to say.

I've been a model builder for over 55 years, and one thing that I absolutely love about this pastime is that when I sit down at my bench, I am the master of the moment. I can do anything I want, any way I want. I can kit bash, build from scratch, reach into my parts box, buy aftermarket pieces and photo-etched details, mix and match from multiple kits - in short, I can simply enjoy building for the sheer joy of it. There are no rules I have to follow, and if the instructions say to insert part A into part B, before assembling on Part C, I can do it in reverse if I want. That's the fun stuff.

No matter how fine a kit I buy, no matter how "perfectly" to scale a kit is purported to be, I can find something not to my liking. I always think I can improve on whatever it is (even if it turns out I can't). That's part of the fun of being a modeler. And just because I decide to scratch build my own (insert item here), it does not mean that there is anything wrong with the kit part, or that the kit maker failed in some way. It's not personal. It's model building.

Lastly, let me mention "scale." There is no such thing as a 100% accurate scale model. Ever look at a working warship or aircraft up close? If you were to build a model that looked exactly the way they look in real life, you'd never win a scale model contest: patched, wavy, rough in places, needing paint in others, bent, scratched, dented, asymmetrical, flawed, you name it. Imperfect. We don't want realism on that level - we want pretty.

Here's an example of what I mean. The first photo is the USS San Francisco after a major overhaul and refit in 1944. Pretty, right? Build one that looks like that, and enter it in a contest. Oohs and Ahs aplenty. But look closer: You can see every single rib. Who builds that way? Any kits look like that? Would I be disrespecting the kit maker if I cut that hull all to pieces to duplicate that rippled look?

Now look at the same ship, just returned from the night battle of Guadalcanal for a refit. Which of these two photos do you think the surviving members of the USS San Francisco Association feel best illustrates this vessel? What do you suppose would be the outcome if two models, one faithfully depicting each photo, were to be entered into the same contest?

The bottom line is that perfection, or fidelity to scale, is a matter of personal taste. If someone wants to build his model straight out of the box, then that's fine. If somebody wants to "mess" with a kit he bought, and put his personal stamp on it, that's fine too; but as a modeler and a photographer, I can tell you categorically that no two people see the same ship or boat, or piece or part or fitting, exactly the same way. There's a place for every interpretation, every forced perspective, and every individual take on it. That's what makes this hobby such a wonderful creative outlet, and I'm only sorry to see that fewer and fewer people take the time to build anything. It's a national tragedy.


Last edited by rwood; Nov 15, 2012 at 11:36 PM. Reason: typo
Nov 15, 2012, 11:43 PM
Registered User
As I have said before what you build to your specifications is up to you LB is very right you can build to the amount of detail that suits you. If you want to replicate the 'starved dog' look of older ships then more power to you (some people do this with tissue or thin plastic or cardstock to skin their hulls with).
Nov 16, 2012, 11:58 AM
oldtribefan's Avatar
Well said, Rwood!
Nov 16, 2012, 04:03 PM
Registered User
Here's a solution that works for me, and might work for others:

I build RC WWII warships in one scale: 1/144. Generally, I scratch build everything. When building something like the Bismarck (for the past 7 years!), I research the subject to a ridiculous degree. I buy every book, every supposedly accurate kit, and purchase or download every photo, drawing, blueprint and plan set I can find. Guess what? There are contradictions and discrepancies in every single one of these resources. Lately, I've been viewing videos of the wreck, taken by ROV by various undersea wreck explorers, and comparing them to the photos. Nothing is 100% accurate. That means I have to make a judgment call on which resource to believe for any given part of the project.

Once I complete scratch building a part that has multiples on the ship (secondary guns and ship's boats, for example, I give it to a friend who makes molds and sells resin parts. That means I only have to make one, and get the rest from him. This works out very well for everyone:
  • I don't have to tediously make multiples of the same part
  • He doesn't have to research the part and build a plug
  • Other modelers can buy a fully researched scale item
  • I can get replacement parts whenever I want

Everybody wins. Here's an example:

I built this Bismarck Admiral's barge, and gave it to George:

And got back this resin casting, ready for detailing and painting:

See what I mean? This is the sort of thing we can do as a community, if we work together.

Last edited by rwood; Nov 16, 2012 at 04:10 PM. Reason: typo
Nov 17, 2012, 02:13 AM
Registered User
Originally Posted by oldtribefan
I agree.

Wot he said
Nov 17, 2012, 08:17 AM
Spreckels Lake, GGP, SF, CA
craig_c's Avatar
re: Rob's <rwood> comments....

This is an example of the artisanal 'maker'/'hacker' community-mentality that has been missing from the wider hobby over the last 40 or 50 years. It used to be a major part of the model boating ethos but has faded over time.

I would posit though that this older, communal effort / support mentality is what will keep the hobby going into the future, especially if it gets taken a step further. More and more I believe, the hobby's product support will be shifting further toward the small, artisanal manufacturers and service providers in niche markets like Lee Upshaw, MACK Products <frankg> or Frank's Mosquito Boats Hobbies <elcoptboat> and away from the larger mass market providers like the late Sterling Company, Dumas, Robbe or Graupner who market to a much wider audience.

Support for artisanal makers, especially smaller ones like Frank's MBH, has to not only be monetary (buying his kits and fittings) but also in skills and trade as well.

After reading Frank's posting (#457) again, I realize he's under pressure and is feeling he's getting beat on when he is does his best in providing a good service and product to a (possible somewhat ungrateful) community. Ok, I can understand that, but I feel it is a bit of an error. 危機 (wēijī ) 'crisis,' consists of two characters - one means danger, the other means opportunity (I know this is an old saw, but relevant). Frank has at least one opportunity, maybe more, here as well, at least as I see it.

For example, like Rob suggested above, Gravman has fabricated a new mast for his PT. Frank's molds based on the old H-R mast are worn out. I see a 'deal' here. Gravman lets Frank take a mold from his new parts and Gravman gets a new kit or a small royalty check at the end of every year if he insists on monetizing the exchange.

At the very least, Gravman gets a real ego-boo; seeing his parts in production, Frank gets new molds and an upgrade in product and stays in business (a very good thing for us) and the community gets a really good product line that should last years.

Add new technologies, like 3D printing of complex metal masters or using SLA methodologies etc., to this and I think we have a recipe for a well-stocked and varied future. If we don't, I fear we will see our lake surfaces become a go-fastie RTR near-monoculture imported from China.

BUT! As Rob points we must learn to work together as a community. If we do, there is probably very little we couldn't accomplish.
Last edited by craig_c; Mar 18, 2015 at 11:37 PM.
Nov 17, 2012, 11:36 AM
+1 craig_c
Nov 18, 2012, 02:18 PM
Registered User
There are a few important considerations to keep in mind when trying to pin down the size, shape and configuration of a scale detail - especially on something like a PT boat.

First, camera lenses produce a curved image. It's not so noticeable when the photo is of a curved object, but if it's rectangular, it's easy to see. This curved representation gets even worse, depending upon the width of the angle of the lens, and the angle at which it is shot.

Second, PT boats were made of wood. They were easy to modify in the field, and often, their crews would replace as-built equipment with non-standard-issue equipment (example: the 37 mm P-39 cannon mounted in the bow in the field). If the original mounting for a piece of equipment was found to be unsatisfactory, the crews would modify it to their liking. It's likely that no two working PT boats were identical, and any given PT boat might look different at any given time in its service life. That makes it problematic to zero in on details, comparing one PT boat with another for purposes of scale modeling.

I think you should relax, and enjoy what you've been doing, and don't worry so much about trying to be 100% accurate. It will drive you crazy.

Nov 18, 2012, 02:40 PM
Registered User
Gravman's Avatar
I think you should relax, and enjoy what you've been doing, and don't worry so much about trying to be 100% accurate. It will drive you crazy.

I have been thinking the same thing. You can look at different pictures and no two boats are the same. It is impossible to say for sure just what is correct.
Nov 18, 2012, 02:48 PM
Registered User
Tim B.'s Avatar
+1 Gravman.

There is license in this hobby to do it the way you want it even if it was good enough to begin with.
Nov 18, 2012, 03:18 PM
Grumpa Tom
Kmot's Avatar
Grav, just pick ONE radar, and do it.

There are so many variations. And if you read some of the PT books you learn that PT crews adapted and changed stuff in the field all the time. That is why we see so many variations in the old photos.
Nov 18, 2012, 03:37 PM
Registered User
Funny story about trying to build a 100% accurate scale model:

I was asked to build a 100" wingspan model of an aerobatic airplane flown by Patty Wagstaff, world aerobatic champion. The model was to be displayed in the rotunda of the National Air & Space Museum at the grand opening gala of the Women in Aviation exhibit, in the same room as the actual airplane, which Patty had donated to the museum. There were no plans in existence of this custom-built airplane (Extra 260).

The only way I could think of to approach this was to photograph and measure every part of the actual airplane, including the pilot, since they wanted a scale model of Patty sitting in the cockpit, as well.

My partner and I fabricated some giant calipers out of PVC pipe that we could disassemble and check in our luggage, as well as a giant contour gauge to get the fuselage formers exactly right, then traveled to Arizona to measure both the airplane and Patty. We spent two days there, gathering info, photos, measurements, paint samples, decal details, artwork, etc.

Upon returning to the SF Bay Area, we set about drafting a set of plans, then started construction. 3 weeks before the event, we were done. While we were building the crate needed to ship the model to Washington, Patty's crew chief called to say that they had "made a few changes" in the airplane. The wheel pants had gotten damaged, and had been replaced with a pair with a different shape and size, and their sponsors had changed, so the vinyl graphics we had ordered custom-made and applied would need to be removed and replaced. But we were out of time and had to ship the model, or it would not arrive in time for the event. So, off it went.

We ordered the graphics, and drafted a new set of plans for the replacement wheel pants. We crafted and painted the new wheel pants, and received the new graphics the day before we were to fly to D.C. We boarded the airliner with the wheel pants, the new graphics, a Dremel tool, X-acto knives and other basic tools, filled with anxiety.

Two hours before the doors were to open for the gala, my partner and I were kneeling in our tuxedos, stripping the graphics off the gleaming automotive lacquered finish, and applying the new graphics with zero room for error. Somehow, we managed to do it. Grinding and fitting the new wheel pants was only slightly less stressful, but we succeeded at that, too, just before the doors opened.

So you see, even when we have access to the actual subject, we modelers can never "freeze" a moment in time, and be certain that our static parts and pieces are 100% accurate. Add 70 years separation from the subject, and it's simply impossible. The world, and the objects and people in it, are always moving on.


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