May 13, 2024

Suffering with Heller's Le Superbe


I've been building this old kit for over a year now, on and off, because sometimes it just really upsets me.

I glued together and painted the hull halves, then installed the lower gundeck no problem. I had to pry the hull apart just a little bit to make it fit.

Not so much luck with the upper gundeck, apparently the manufacturer did not think about space after setting up the 30-odd cannon of the lower tier. I could not manage to squish the thing in in one piece. 

Next I tried to split it in three sections lengthwise, but there was an issue of fit again - there was no good order in which to install the sections. This caused damage to the lower deck as well. Furthermore, the point of attachment of the rope/chain that secures the bottom deadeyes to the hull is level with the upper gundeck, which made it nigh impossible to fit the two together.

So in the end I removed the molded-on deck fittings, copied the outline of the deck to a piece of 1mm balsa, and remade it completely. 

I also added some crosswise beams to the construction so that the gundeck sits flush and does not sag inward. Of course in the end these just interfered with the mast holes, so I had to scrape away some, notably at the foremast.

Once the deck - in one piece - received its paintjob, I trimmed off a large part off of each side, which followed the curvature of the outer hull, and glued these in first, followed by the larger central piece. This way I could make amendments and trim off any excess - the fit is not perfect, but good enough. I just had to move the three entry points for the masts a little bit back after test fitting.

I trimmed off the sides where the ends of the rope entered the hull, and filled it with Magic Sculpt once the rest was glued in. It's not very pretty, but blends in, and is deep enough in the hull that it won't be that visible.

At this point, jut to complicate things, a cannon at the bottom tier got loose, and I had to tear out a larger swath of the already installed upper gundeck to reach it (that is the crack line visible on the picture above), and then with some CA glue managed to fix the damned thing back in its place.

Fortunately the spar deck and the stored boats will hide most of the damage, so I turned to manufacturing other pieces, leaving the gundeck as is. I may just run it over with a gloss coat before gluing the guns in to hide the dots of glue. About a dozen guns in the waits will be visible from the spar deck, so those are going to have some tackle added (skipped this for the lower tier after some deliberation).

I also have the 1/100 Soleil Royal from Heller, where the gundecks are split along the middle and one side has a 'lip' the other can sit onto, which is a way better solution, as you don't have to force the hull halves apart and it's easy to make adjustments.

Some gratification is that after dry fitting the spar deck, the thing starts to look like a real ship of the line, and I also found out just how good oil washes can be, both on smaller items and large surfaces.

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