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Argonaut #160 HMS Iron Duke
Simple 1250 Scale Conversions
Paul Jacobs

Many collectors lack the time or perhaps the ability to scratch build models from the waterline up. And in the case of 1:1250 scale models, unless you are dedicated to the proposition that you MUST build your own, the number of different models available, and the excellent quality of those models, make it unnecessary to build your own. Why build a fleet when someone else has done it for you? But despite the vast variety of models in 1250 scale, some of us love and want to work with our hands, and others want models that have yet to be made, and perhaps never will be. One way that the collector can satisfy these needs is convert existing models, creating new ships that have differences from the original. These conversions may represent sister ships of the original, with minor variations, or the original in a later (or earlier) rig. In this article I will address several minor conversions that I have done of existing commercial models. These are all relatively easy to do. In many instances the model didn't even have to be repainted. These conversions, however, entail more than merely putting on better masts, or improved gun barrels. Generally some cutting was required. In all instances new parts had to be added. To do these conversions generally only basic tools and materials were required: Plastic sheeting and strips in various sizes, brass rod of various dimensions, hobby putty (I like Squadron), a hobby knife, pin vise and micro drills, CA glue, sand paper, metal files, scissors to cut the brass wire, and tweezers. Naturally you need an assortment of paints and brushes to finish the job.

H.I.M.J.S. IDZUMO 1938
Jacobs08a_small.jpg (1253 bytes)This model is a conversion from Navis 233 IWATE. The Navis model represents the ship as built around 1900. This conversion changed the ship to 1938 rig. The major changes involved replacing the masts, raising the height of the bridge, and adding boats on raised rails just forward of the main mast and abreast the funnels. The cutting therefore was minimal, involving only the removal of the masts. New masts were made from brass rod, tops placed on them and then holes drilled and the masts glued on. The raised rails were easily made using brass wire. Modern launches were then made from bits of plastic and glued on. The raised bridge was created from a piece of plastic strip and glued atop the existing bridge top. Because disruption of the paint was minimal, I carefully matched the existing paint. The entire project was easily completed in one evening.

H.I.M.J.S. TOKIWA 1938
Jacobs09a.jpg (19367 bytes)This model is a conversion from Navis 234 TOKIWA. The Navis model represents the ship as built around 1899. This conversion changed the ship to the minelayer rig circa 1938. This model involved more cutting than the IDZUMO, as well as filing, however with care, I was able to save and match the original paint. The bridge had to be raised just as in IDZUMO. New masts had to be made. The four secondary guns, two on each side had to be removed which required some deft cutting and the replacement of bulwarks. Finally, the after turret had to be removed and the barbette sanded flat. Using .006 or .008 wire, mine rails were added aft and mines were rolled out of putty, much as one might make spit balls. On this model, davits were added to the boats. With both this and IDZUMO, the necessary drawings and photos to make the models were found in a variety of books, including both English and Japanese sources. Particularly useful is a series in Japanese entitled DRAWINGS OF JAPANESE NAVAL VESSELS. Pacific Front Hobbies usually carries these.

jacobs03.jpg (54974 bytes)This model was converted to a 1942 rig from a Neptun 1444 PRIMAUGUET model, which represents the ship pre-war. The conversion model has neutrality stripes which were used after the 1940 Armistice, until November 1942. An examination of the photos (the converted model is in front, unconverted in the background) will reveal that the major changes are located on the boat deck and after superstructure. The main mast has been replaced with a smaller mast, and a director tower placed on the aft structure. The tower was fabricated from plastic. The boat deck on both sides has been extended aft, covering where the after torpedo tubes are located. Additional boats are sited on the new deck. The tricky part of this conversion was to add the new deck and make it blend into the existing one, with minimal disruption to the existing boats and deck. My goal was to avoid repainting the model if possible, and in this I got lucky. I was able to match the decking flush, fill the minor cracks with putty and sand them smooth with minimal paint disruption. Added boats, which are resin copies of Neptun boats helped cover the connecting lines. Plans and photos for this conversion were found in Marine Editions book, LES CROISEURS DE 8000 TONNES.

Jacobs22a.jpg (34296 bytes)This is an old plastic Wiking model from the late 1950's. The trick to improving this model was to replace the 6 inch guns, put barrels on the AA guns and improve the masts with added detailing. Then a detailed paint job to cover the silver plastic and the result is very presentable product.

jacobs01.jpg (31565 bytes)This is a conversion of Argonaut 415 BOUGAINVILLE, the French sloop. During 1941-2 most of those ships in the class under Vichy control had enhanced AA fits added to their after superstructure, as was done here. A simple conversion involving removal of the main mast and aircraft crane, and modifications to the after structure, decals and paint and you have a different version of this lovely ship.

Jacobs06a.jpg (31796 bytes)Jacobs07a.jpg (25763 bytes)This is the HL model of the liner GREAT NORTHERN, converted to the U.S. transport COLUMBIA. The ship mounted 6 inch guns as shown. This plus new masts, a platform made from etched brass on the bridge, rigging and a new paint job easily transformed this model. The gun mounts and shields were made from plastic, with brass rods for barrels. This is a very simple conversion that required no cutting at all.

jacobs06.jpg (44506 bytes)The two models pictured are both Argonaut 160 IRON DUKE. In this case, we have a retrograde conversion. That is, the ship is transformed from the manufacturer's model of IRON DUKE as a gunnery training ship circa 1939, back to one of the class circa 1929. This was accomplished by modifying the mainmast, removing the twin 4.5 inch gun aft, modifying the after structure where X and Y mounts belong and restoring two main turrets to the ship in B and Y positions. To do that, you need to do some cutting and filing, and have a couple of spare turrets in your parts box. After years at this I had some old Navis turrets that worked just fine. The ship then got a complete repaint job. This model might be made from a Navis IRON DUKE, but that would take major modifications to the bridge structure, as well as other significant changes to the ship, which need not be done with the Argonaut model. Good material on this class during the inter-war period can be found in BRITISH BATTLESHIPS 1919-1939, by R.A. Burt.

If you have some interesting conversions that you'd like featured, contact me via email at 1250man@comcast.net

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