The last of these large scale ships was done quite some time ago. Being busy with other projects I thought spending time on something different would be healthy, and I've still had a bigger amount of 8mm thick balsa wood.
While being occupied with the 1/2000 scale pre-dreads I focused mostly on researching the Japanese and Russian fleets. I first found that Zvezda produced the Borodino class in 1/350 but the models were not available in the country, so I chose to scratchbuild this French ship instead, sticking with the scale previously used.
First I searched for period photos of the ship and found many useful ones. One thing to note is that I used the deck plan by Brasseys (as I found no other) and placed the turrets on the side about 1cm forward to their actual position. There are a few other points where period photos and plans were not clear enough and I had to improvise, like the shape of the bridge and the location of the cranes.
First a few words about building the ship. The hull is two layers of 8mm balsa, the aft part of the upper one chopped off. I loved shaping the tumblehome hull. I added the gunports using a small square piece of plasticard, punching the soft wood in. They're not the most perfect but give a good visual effect. This technique is to be refined. On top of the balsa came a sheet of 2mm plasticard for the elevated parts of the deck. To cover the recess between the plasticard and the wooden structure I glued on a slice of paper. Unfortunately the lower edge of the paper was lost under the PVA and primer, otherwise it could have been used to line out the brighter grey stripe of paint later on. Paper covered in glue was also used to shape the prow of the ship.
Building the superstructure was also fun. I use three types of wooden sticks for the small pre-dreads but those were not good enough for this one. The masts are made of old brushes of three different diameters, and the one to the fore also has a piece of a plastic ball point pen. The masts above the fighting tops are made from a thicker type of broom bristle while the ropes are from the same as the small ships' masts. The cranes are made from these same bristles and tooth picks.
I had to make some changes during the construction. First I had to switch the turrets on the sides to smaller ones. The old ones had the same look as the ones on deck, and it would have been impossible to rotate them. The ones finally applied are made from the same brush handle as the fighting tops. The gun barrels are toothpicks. The large turrets are made from a composition of thin paper, card, a small ring from a plastic ear cleaner and a pine wood core sanded to shape.
The second emergency refit occured when I observed photos made from other angles (it was clear that the Brasseys deck plan was wrong about both the size and placing of the funnels) and found out that there was more space between the bridge and the first funnel than I had placed them. Taking them off was a pain. The funnels are made from an old pen (I actually found it on a bus and used it for quite a while), filled up with paper towel. The paper obviously soaked up the glue, resulting in a very strong bond. Taking the funnels off resulted in the destruction of the bridge and the mast before it, however it mostly remained in one piece and was easy to install again.
The rest of construction went well, except the resizing of most lifeboats as they seemed too tiny in their first form. Fancying larger ones from pine wood was a simple task. The base of the side turrets was made from balsa and the armored rim from a Vallejo paint bottle. I have many of these empty bottles because, let's face it, they are made from plastic and can be used for a variety of scratch-building projects. It is important to remove the paint from the insides before gluing them to place as the glue will adhere to the layer of acrylic paint instead of the plastic. The thinner flat surfaces such as the deck of the fore and aft superstructures were made from a plastic box.
I had to wait a lot for the PVA to dry. The wooden hull is coated in a multitude of layers for extra smoothness and protection. If you paint over the glue that seems dry but is in fact not, the paint will crack and it is going to take many layers to cover it.
Anyway, I used a white primer and a few layers of paint to complete the ship. I found no indication about the color of the deck so I just went after my head.
I have a great old book on ship modeling and one of the first advices in it is to store any type of bits and pieces which could come useful later. These times I am glad to listen to that advice. By now I also have a multitude of storage facilities to keep all the junk I accumulated.
To the point, she looks sufficiently like her historical counterpart and it was relaxing to build another, more detailed, large scale pre-dread in my hobby time. Some things could have been done better, but luckily she was never intended to be a true scale model.