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Zvezda 1/350 scale Russian Imperial Navy battleship 'Sevastopol'

Kit:9040 // Scale:1/350 // Price:$94.95
Zvezda, from Dragon Models USA, 626-968-0322
Exceptionally good fits; well-engineered
Tight fits require extra care during painting; some prominent mold seams
Injection-molded, 432 parts, decals, paper flags

Four Gangut-class Russian dreadnought-design battleships (also known as the Sevastopol class) were laid down in June 1909. But, constantly shifting requirements, financing, and other obstacles delayed commissioning of the first two until November 1914. By then, with the rapid expansion of the world’s fleets, the ships’ 12" main armament had already been made obsolescent by 14" and 15" weapons of the major naval powers in World War I. 

Zvezda’s Sevastopol comprises 432 parts on eight sprues molded in light gray plastic with better-than-average detail. Four clear parts provide windows for the conning station. A decal sheet and paper flag sheet are included for the Sevastopol only. You can build a full hull or waterline it using a deeply scored line on the inside of the hull sides. The lower hull has a rough texture compared to the upper hull sides and is apparently finished that way on purpose. A display stand is included.

The instruction sheet, printed on both sides, measures 11" x 31" and contains 30 steps, 23 subassembly steps, and decal placement. Subassemblies 15a-29a are a bit crowded on the margins but clear enough.

In Step 1 you must decide whether to mount the anti-torpedo booms and service platforms; the guide holes are impressed on the inside of the hull and are easily hand-drilled. The lineup for parts fitted later is perfect, so you can trust your drilling. Or you can decide not to mount the booms and keep the hull sides flush. Either option is correct for 1914-17.

From the very start, there was evidence of the close tolerances of this model as the hull halves stayed together without glue. I completed steps 1-5 quickly, except for mounting the 16 casemate guns. 

Looking forward, I realized there would be 54 protrusions on the hull when adding the waterline decals. So I skipped ahead to paint and decal the hull. I painted it flat red and flat gull gray per the instructions. The 12 white waterline decal sections were set first, and 14 draft lines followed; all laid down very well with no breakage. The waterlines are very thin and are best applied with the hull on its side. Be careful with the draft line, which is meant to follow the curve of the icebreaking hull. 

After sealing the decals, I mounted casemate guns as steps 6-14 moved right along. Trim the undersides of hatch covers F3/F4/F5/F6; ejector-pin remnants on some will prevent flush fitting to the deck mounts. Step 14, where the booms and working platforms are added, only denotes the port-side placement. But rest assured of the symmetry of the part numbers for the starboard side.

Steps 15 and 15a through Step 29a are where patience is required. Check and double-check for any seams, no matter how tiny; the tight tolerances of this model make even a single, thin coat of paint a suspect in fit problems.

Steps 19a-22b require continuous dry-fitting to make sure there are no seams or paint hang-ups. Check the diameter of the mast hole for each level, as tiny seams will restrict easy placement of the mast. Quick hint: Red bar decal 11, which circles the forward funnel, will be most easily mounted before Step 23, in which the conning tower attaches to the funnel.

Take care in Step 23; any misalignment will bow the first-tier deck and prevent solid placement of the stack.

Steps 24 and 25 reveal missing parts; eight funnels are needed for the four boats, but only six are on the two sprue trees C. 

A special note about Step 27a: You will need to decide if you wish to drill mounting holes for eight parts F11 (French Canet 75mm/50-caliber) on all four turret tops. In my research, I could find evidence of only four total: two each on the fore and aft turrets (only later in the ship’s life) with none on the midships turrets. Since the conning tower appears to be the 1914 configuration compared to the 1920 box art, I left the extra cannons off.

The fit is so tight on the turrets that no glue is required to attach the base. But do so anyway to prevent elevating the movable guns too much. This kit uses a unique sandwich collar for turret rotation; use minimal glue to keep them moving.

By Step 30 the masts will drop in place, perfectly aligned and supported by the decks. This was a nice feature. Regarding the masts, the lower, wide, forward yardarm noted on the box art is not part of the model. A 1914 photograph shows just a narrow crosstree on the leading edge of topmast support platforms. I used stretched sprue for the ship’s rigging.

A final note about decals: The double-head eagle (Decal No. 1) will straddle the stern; that’s not clear in the instructions.

Painting with Testors Model Master Acryls, I used: flat gull (No. 4763); wood (4673); and German gray (4795). I also applied Testors flat red (No. 1250) and Tamiya red (X-7) enamels along with PanPastel ultrasoft gray and umber pastels.

As a model builder with some experience, I prefer to prepaint fiddly little parts on the sprue and touch up after mounting. That said, this kit does not like that and will let you know you should sand off any excess paint for a good fit.

The tight fits result in a model with no fillers. The deck could have been left unglued — a tribute to Zvezda engineering.

I spent 92 hours building my Sevastopol. It was a pleasant time with no surprises or glaring faults to correct — and I learned a great deal about the tumultuous times from 1914 to 1921 in the Baltic region against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. 

Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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