Zvezda 1/350 Imperial Russian Navy Battleship "Borodino"

Kit #9027                    MSRP $36.99                  $33.29 from Squadron Mail Order
Images and text Copyright © 2015 by Matt Swan

Developmental History
       The Battleship Borodino was laid down on 23 May 1900 in the New Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, launched in 1901 and went into service in 1904 as the lead ship in a new class of battleship. Within a few months of completion she was sent to the Far East as part of the Second Pacific Squadron to break the Japanese blockade of Port Arthur. On 27 May 1905 a lucky shot by the Japanese set off one of the 152mm gun magazines which resulted in the Borodino taking a one way trip to the bottom. Only one crew member of the 855 souls on board survived her destruction.

The Kit
       This kit was released in August of 2011 by Zvezda and is a fairly good piece of work however it is not really a Zvezda kit, it was originally an Eastern Express kit acquired by Zvezda. The box is interesting in that we have a light duty slip cover with the artwork over a good, solid locking tab cardboard box. This provides not only excellent structure for storage in your stash but also gives the modeler that all important parts tray for use during construction. Instructions consist of a four page fold-out sheet and are reasonably good. The English is spotty but good enough to figure out what needs done. There is a short color chart with paint codes for most European manufactures. A very basic rigging plan is laid out but it does not go far enough for example figuring out where the various stays for the main stacks tie down is about impossible. A small sheet of decals includes a Cyrillic name for the display stand along with bow and stern crests. A paper sheet gives us the basic Imperial Navy flags.
       There is both good news and bad news when looking at the parts; good news is that the surface detail is good and surface texture is good. Excuse the pun but there is a boat-load of parts here. Bad news is that there is some flash on some parts, all parts display a prominent mold separation seam and a few parts have sink marks. The kit does not include any railings or photo-etch parts. It appears to be sufficient to build a basic representation of the Borodino. It definitely provides a good foundation for a modeler to increase the detail level with aftermarket material of which there is plenty to bring this up to a museum build level. Several people are making turned brass barrel sets for this like Master (of course) and SS Models out of China and RB Models. The Master set includes barrels for all the guns while the other two manufactures provide just the 305mm and 152mm barrels for the main batteries. I personally do not bother replacing the smaller 75mm and 47mm barrels on kits of this scale. White Ensign and Gold Medal Models both offer extensive photo-etch sets for the kit. I went with the Gold Medal Models set because it offered replacement cabins for the upper decks and included the photo-etch for the Imperial Russian Navy Protected Cruiser Varyag which is also in my stash. The GMM set is really nice but could benefit from better instructions. Artwox and Wood Hunter both make replacement wooden decks for this kit. I bought the Artwox set and really like it. I will try the Wood Hunter product on the Varyag.

       I have been sucked in by the model ships recently. For the longest time I built primarily aircraft with only a little dabbling in the shipbuilding field until this last year. I thought I could get over it with my recent build of the 1/350 German destroyer Z-43 but that just seems to have set the hook even deeper. I had picked up the Borodino kit thinking it not only looked cool but tied into the romanticism of the Steam Punk genre. Since I suffer from AMS (Advanced Modeler Syndrome) I had acquired the various detail sets when I got the basic kit. As I finished off the Z-43 build I found my thoughts already wandering to this particular subject. Without further ado, here begins the construction of the Russian Imperial Navy Battleship Borodino!

       The primary hull pieces are assembled and the main decks are test fit. There are some fit issues with the deck caused mostly from quality control on the molds, i.e. wall thickness varies across the part forcing the deck to torque. Some careful adjustment of the hull step where the deck fits with a burr bit on a Dremel is required.

       I have heard some people complain about the Artwox decking material not staying attached to the plastic deck surface over time. It seems with the level of adhesive on this stuff that if the modeler ensures a clean surface to start with and applies good even pressure to the entire deck area it should stay down just fine. I know if I misplace it a little and try to lift it, it does not want to let go. Placing this large deck piece is a little difficult and it wants to break apart at some of the very fine connecting points. I ended up cutting it into a couple sections then piecing it together which worked out well. The foundation of this kit came together with few issues and very quickly. While glue was drying I worked over the gun batteries, each of these can rotate and the mains can elevate. The small waterline guns could be fitted to rotate but I found the little shelves to hold them to be a real bugger getting in place and did not want to fight with the guns also so just cut off the bottom mounting point and glued them in place. No one should be touching my model anyway.

       On the small 75mm and 47mm guns I have removed the plastic armor plate and replaced it with PE material. On the blower funnels I opened up the faces with a burr bit to add some depth to the part. On the main stacks I opened the spaces between the cap ridges then drilled spots to mount PE eye bolts for the support cables that will be added later. I did add some preshading to the stack centerline and added some weathering where moisture and soot would trickle down from the eye bolts.

       As the detail levels increase the speed at which the build develops slows down. Now I am doing the upper decks and adding crew figures. I have used various PE and plastic 1/350 crew figures in the past and they all are very 2 dimensional. North Star Models out of the Ukraine does some very nice resin figures that have good depth and a wide selection of poses. They also offer three different sets of Russian Imperial Navy figures so I had little choice but to buy them. The sets are a little expensive but hey, you get what you pay for. The only negative I have about North Star Models is they are very slow.

       I have been plugging along with this painting little crew figures and bending guard rails with my jewelry pliers however progress has been slowed by the mundane aspects of life. Time spent with grand-kids, digging out from blizzards and in just a few days progress will come to a complete halt when the new kitchen cabinets are delivered. I'll be modeling in 1:1 scale for a bit. For now though the 2nd and 3rd upper fore decks have been completed. Between now and cabinet delivery date I will work on the aft upper decks and the steam launches. Just as a point of information, when painting those crew figures they get a base color then black, flesh, base color touch-up then white. This assumes there are no secondary items to be done such as flags, books, buckets or other material. All this done under a 15 power glass.

       Most of my time is now spent playing carpenter or electrician in the kitchen but the last couple hours of my day are still reserved for the modeling bench. The aft upper decks are complete however before installing them I want to get some hand rail around the upper gun deck. Oddly enough the Gold Medal Models PE set does not include railing for this area or for all of the elevated walkways mid-ship. I had to pick up a secondary set of two bar railing from Artwox to finish off these areas. Once the gun deck railing was in place the aft upper decks were installed. Moving back up front the anchors are drilled to accept the metal anchor chain and glued in place. Now the Borodino has small hoists up front to handle stowing the anchors, these I detailed by creating hooks from spare handrail segments and punching pulley wheels from sheet stock then rigged the equipment with invisible thread painted black.

       Home remodeling tasks have kept me away from the modeling table quite a bit recently yet I still get a few hours here and there in on this project. At this juncture I am working on the masts and spars. Each mast is a little detail kit unto itself, not only do I have the basic plastic to assemble but the observation platforms need PE railing bent to conform then attached. Also I have the yardarm foot ropes to attach and these are very fiddly pieces. There are hoist arms associated with both the fore and aft masts; the fore hoists are mounted outside the mast center-line while the aft hoist arms are mounted directly to the mast. The kit provides the basic plastic hoist arm and the PE detail set offers nothing to dress them up so I have to take matters into my own hands and make hardware for these as it will be very visible hanging off the end of the arm. To begin I need to make pulley blocks for the hook. This is made from small and medium circles punched from thin sheet stock then sandwiched together. The hook is simply a bent piece of left over hand rail and the hoist cable is more re-purposed handrail material. Everything is put together with superglue and patience.
       Now I have to consider rigging in general. The first question I have to answer is what material do I use to rig this ship to keep it in scale and maintain some level of visibility to the material? In 1/350 scale most of these lines would be nearly invisible yet commonly used model rigging material for sailing ships which are usually around 1/100 scale are much too large. I do not like common sewing thread as it tends to have lots of little random stray threads protruding. Fine wire is a possibility but it gives little option for fine adjustments to line tension after being installed. Invisible thread is a fair choice as it avoids the issues with common sewing thread but the process of coloring it with markers sometimes leaves a faded look that reduces visibility. Of course I could paint each line with black paint to enhance it but that is an awful lot of fine painting. On other builds of this scale I have used human hair which works great for scale and strength but again leaves something to be desired for visibility. Oh what a conundrum! At this particular moment all I have to worry about are the lifts for the yards so right now I'm going to start with colored and painted invisible thread. I think I will also wait for the next time the wife wants to color her hair then will raid the hair brush for building material.

Construction Update 4/27/2015
       The overhead walkways are detailed with railings from a set of generic Eduard PE railing. The Gold Medal Models set gives the modeler so many really nice details but in some area is lacking and here is one of them. The set also gives us PE for the Zvezda 'Varyag' which is an obvious push to buy and build that kit because you can't let good PE go to waste. I need to digress onto the 'Varyag' kit now and shortly you will understand the importance of this. I did purchase this kit and it is a fine kit however I had to buy more details like brass guns and decking material and had to look at what the Eduard PE set offered compared to the GMM set. Eduard did offer a few additional details that I liked so I picked up that set as well. Now the Eduard set includes some very nice hook blocks to replace the molded hook blocks that exist on the 'Varyag' kit parts. The plastic hook blocks are actually fairly decent so instead of scratch building hook blocks for the 'Borodino' I simply salvaged the blocks from the 'Varyag' kit and transplanted them over.
       From here it is a PE-fest with the foredeck railings being pre-bent then placed and the Captain's Walk being done and Crests and mid deck railings and on it goes for a couple weeks until I am sick and tired of gluing PE railing to this ship. In-between railing sessions I searched the internet looking for some guidance on the stack stays. It does not take much to figure out where they attach at the top of the stacks but exactly where they should connect on the deck is a mystery. The instructions do not cover this and the images of other modelers completed builds do little to help. Eventually I can across a really nice line drawing for the 'Borodino' class battleship which nailed the issue perfectly and I will gladly share that image with you here. Open the link then copy the image to your computer. It is a fairly large file and once into your computer you can enlarge it a good amount. Note that I also included the website on the image where I found it in case you need to go to the source and find more information. This image combined with the kit instructions and the GMM rigging instructions covers nearly everything you need.

       A quick work on the boat storage racks - they don't fit the boats for shit. I ended up just super gluing the boats in place as best I could then moved on. From here it is all about rigging. You just have to make like a Sperg (Asperger's Syndrome) and focus in on one line. Make that line your whole world until it is complete then focus on the next. After a few hours of this I sit back and look and cannot believe that I have accomplished such an intricate piece of work. Most of the rigging is invisible thread painted flat black however the antenna hanging from the spars are hair from my wife's hairbrush.

       The base kit does not include any boarding ladders nor instructions for such. The GMM accessory package does not cover this either. The line drawings I presented earlier do show them. Working with parts from the spares box, left over decking material and some thin plastic sheet stock I built these basically from scratch. Maybe when this is complete I will mount a steam launch next to it. Anyway, work continues.

       As far as parts to install go there is not much left to this build. All the little flood doors on the waterline guns are super-glued in place with the retaining cables made from some fine wire electrical wire I salvaged from my kitchen remodel project. The last of the boat divots are placed and the torpedo net catwalks are installed along with the net booms. From here it is pretty much an exercise in rigging. One mistake I made was placing the rigging lines from the top of the fore mast to the bow before doing the mast stays. It took hardly any tension at all to bow the mast forward and now that the stays are in place I cannot correct it without replacing all the rigging. I should have placed those two lines last. The second boarding ladder is fabricated and she is ready for some pictures.

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