Schlachtschiff ,,Bismarck” …. a 30 month modellers' story
by Jos Visser

Scale 1/350

Plastic model building is one off my hobby’s for many years and I made in my life several kits of aircraft, cars, military models and warships.
In the beginning I was building my models straight from the box, but I got more enjoyment when I improved kits and put more detail on it. Especially on plastic ship models you can go for it. In the early days I’ll had already made the Bismarck twice in different scales because off the typical lines from that battleship.

When I became interested in the scale 1/350 for ships and building the Yamato and Missouri from Tamiya, I wanted to make the Bismarck as well. As the Tamiya kit is really expensive so I’ll bought the kit from Academy because it is an exact copy off the Tamiya kit but at a much lower price. But off course the box top and the directions are not as nice and clear. When I examined the parts from the kit I  became a little disappointed, this model is the first kit in the scale 1/350 from Tamiya and was in my opinion not a good start, as it is not the same quality as his predecessors. Currently Trumpeter is filling the gap with big ships now.

Good documentation is very useful in our hobby and especial the help from the drawings in the scale 1/100 from the German Company Harhaus. It was for me a real challenge to try to put the same detail on in 1/350 as on a 1/100 model. Of good help are alsolso many other books like Schlachtschiff Bismarck, from Breyer &Koop was for me a good help.
bismarck turrets rotate md wht 
One of the first steps was that I sawed off the whole deckhouse from the mid-section deck part, and made a total new deck from Evergreen plastic card. I used v-grooved 4030 spacing for most of the decks as they were made from wood in reality; only for the Admirals "brücke" I used the finer .025” spacing. Also in this early stage I’ll consolidate the hull with strips off plastic from 1,5 mm thick.
The big advantage of making a new deck is that you can hide the seals of the deck, because this is in the kit made from 3 parts and they are come together otherwise a very visible seam will be there. On my new deck they now are been hidden under the second wave breaker and beneath the third 15 cm gun barbette.

I build my ship models always in a water diorama and I did this also with the,,Bismarck” but I never saw the bottom off. I prefer to make boxes for my ships from plastic plate with the front plate made from clear plastic, and then  let the ship ,,sink” in the box. Using this method you can see the bottom of the ship as well, therefore Ill made the grating in the underside off the hull as well.
The waves were made from plaster material which I formed with a big brush and painting thesewith acrylic colors. Start with a very dark color and with drybrushing and the whitefor the wave tops. When the box is ready I lay it beside because I’ll place the the ship in the finally state in there.

Many different kits you can build straight from the box and you can made a good effort off them. However with ships in my point off view you cannot do that, they almost cry for a etching set to make good looking railing, stairs and radars and you can bring much more detail on it! For this models I used the new,,Bismarck” Gold Medal Models etched set from Loren Perry.
Because of this, you need to prepare some parts before even starting the model as you can easily scrape detail from the parts as ladders and other detail what better can replaced by etching parts.

But lets go on working on the new made deck which is now rather clean after some sanding and scraping off the raised details. They are wrong anyhow, so I’ll make them all new, beginning with the raised anchor chain floor witch were later comes on real copper chain. Also I reshaped the anchorage and the winches for the anchor chain, made all the boxes and vends new and placed them on the right place.

The new bollards I make from Slaters rods, they are made from hard styrene. If you hold them above a burning candle they melt beautiful flat. Next step was then to place them in a drilled hole. It is also advisable to glue a fine strip on the outside off the deck were you can later on placed the etching railing on the inside. It is always wise to make building plans for later on, therefore used screws to fix the whole deckhouse on a piece off 2mm plastic plate. All the screws came under the 10,5 flak guns and two were hidden in the barbettes from Bruno and Cesar. Later in the building stage it's now easier to screw this large part on the deck, but now I screw it on several layers off multiplex (4 cm thick) for a good steady underground and it can also lay on its side which is vey handy later on.(the forward and back side I filled out with 1mm for the curved under deck.)
Next was to go to the aft section off the deckhouse beginning with the barbette off  Cesar witch most placed a little more to the back of the ship. The sponsors on for the 10,5 Flak guns were glued on also scrape 0,5 mm off the whole afterdeck where the catapult line begins. The kit base floor is not correct and for that reason I glued this part on a piece Evergreen planking sheet 2030 0,5mm thick; The areas  surrounding the 10,5 guns are mostly flat. These are round and get support on the underside through some sort of fan shaped form. The lost of the 37mm flak protection shields is not a disaster, we can now make a more realistic variant with support ribs on the inside. .
The biggest mistake of the kit is the hangar for two of the four Arado floaplanes. The back and the sides need reshaping as the "search-light building" should be made wider. And of course let’s not forget the boat racks on top of the hangar; they most are slanting, not strait, the boats almost be touching eachother under the flag deck.
The boat racks on top and on the sides were all made new from strips (Plastruct and Evergreen). The hangar door came from the G.M.M etching set, and also the  inside of the hangar was reworked.
Naturally I’ll change all the rest off the decks from the aft deckhouse as well in planking plate, without the part around the aft gun director. The flag decks were reshaped with new made flag boxes and also the big mast got more detail including the caboose pipes.

The sets from G.M.M.are mostly good and good for msot modellers, but I wanted to do some extra. The Bismarck set is a little disappointing in some areas. For example, the doors in the set are too big, the round port-holes are fitted with covers, you’ll get the half too short; of the fifty admirals windows you’ll need only a few; finally the driver-supports for the Arado's are to high.

That’s why I’ve made several etching parts for my own use; all the doors, hatches in many sizes, searchligths and many other special parts to make the model complete. For the ladders and stairs I bought a set from the German company Seamann, they are really looking fine. (They also can deliver tools and material for self-etching). From the ladders off G.M.M set I cut out the foot or handing rails for the funnel and elsewhere on the model.
Almost every part of the kit I have refined, put detail on it, or make it simply new. I also restyled the whole funnel with  airboxes, sloping base, stepped inward sides, funnel outlets and the little pipes on top, which I made from injection needle. The command-bridge also needed several corrections.

The best way to build such a big model is to make sub-assemblies. I did this also with the funnel and the top off the control-tower, therefore it’s a lot easier to put on all the railing on all the parts. After driiling out the port-holes I filled these with Microscale Clear. Not mentioned before were all the eye-brows above all the windows that there all made from ,,slaters” strips.
Much pleasure I found in making the little boats. Found on the Bismarck are six different types, the kit parts are almost useless, only the hulls with a little reshaping I have used. I’m putting many etching parts on the boats and make new deck planking on the inside of them, they’ve become now little beauties of there own.
The Arado 196, same story; guns, clear cockpits were fitted as well as on one plane folding wings.
The 15 and 6" guns blast bags were made from milliput. The Flak 105mm guns get their in- and outside details with their "fuse-setting” equipment. The eight 37mm Flak were not so easy, 35 little self-made parts each were needed; only the barrels could be used.

For the ,,Flak vierling’’ I looked at a Tamiya 1/35 model as an example; for the barrels I used the steal wire 0,2 mm from Minimeca makling a total of 18 barrels (also 10 for the other 20 mm canons.)
The other ten single 20 mm guns I also made from scratch materials, the little handwheels come also from Seamann and for the back shoulder grips I have made my own etching parts.

On the midship of the ,,Bismarck’ standing two large cranes and the kit parts are almost useless. That’s why I’ll made them from scratch. Note there are also crane cables on the etching set from G.M.M. but it is very difficult to make them straight; it’s easier to make this from stretched sprue.
There are so many details on my ship modfel and they are almost to much to described. If you are study the photographs you’ll  see what I mean, but there are a few I like also to mention. The ,,Fumo’’ gun directors, Restyled new air boxes round the barbettes with fine messing perforated walkways, they also used for the walkways fore the funnel and boat racks. The big searchlights wre hollowed out and their insides painted with chrome paint. And let’s not forgot all the little vision and gun directors’ witch I made piece for piece. Yes, they have little hand-wheels made from the G.M.M. Bofors gun sights set. The 1/100 drawing was very useful here.


The coloring of the ,,Bismarck’’ is a subject on its own.A good guide is the book ,,Anstriche und tarnanstriche der deutschen Kriegsmarine". I modelled the Bsiamrck as of May 18, 1941. This was probable one of the last days that she wore the ,,Baltic scheme’’. And this is for me the most attractive state of the ship. For the exact coloring I have used color chips from the RAL color table.
First off al was the bottom of the hull that was sprayed Red RAl 8013, with the black water-line RAl 9011. For the black tarnsrteibe, a little lighter RAL 9004 was used. The hull color is RAl 7000 and the deck-building is RAL 7001.
All the coloring is only an approximation because only the Kriegsmarine later in the war worked with color-numbering. The Bisimarck colours are at that time unknown, but the red turret tops as seen on many drawings are possible not right; there are no color photos published with these red tops, but pics with dark grey turret tops looking the same color as the bow and stern as seen in May 1941. (RAL 7024)
 I prefer to paint the model with all the etching railing on because the super-glue sticks better on unpainted parts, but its needs careful masking to add the tarnstreibe. Finally I added the antenna's from stretch sprue.

So this is the story for this model and in total the whole job took me almost 30 months of spare time. I hope you found my story useful, but it is almost impossible to describe all the work. Maybe the pictures will help here also. This model was taken to the IPMS world-competition 2000 in Telfort in Great-Brittan and took gold in his class. At many other shows similar results were obtained.
Enjoy ship modelling!

Jos Visser

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This article was published January 2012 on this IPMS NL website