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Making Panzerschiffe's Monitor

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26 July 2001page first published

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Panzerschiffe's Monitor comes in 1:2400 scale, which is perfect for those collecting a consistent scale among naval periods, as well as those needing small models in order to use with naval boardgames or in limited playing areas.

Panzerschiffe's Monitor as manufactured

The model measures 22mm in length and 5mm in width, correcting representing the actual Monitor's dimensions in this scale. Compared against published deckplans, the shape of the hull is perfectly accurate. However, the turret is too large, and the smokeboxes, ventilator boxes, and pilothouse are larger and slightly off from where they should be.

deckplan (in blue) laid over photo of Panzerschiffe's Monitor

(According to one source, the smokeboxes and ventilator boxes weren't carried into battle - I suppose you could file them off if you want. I left mine in place.)

Technically, this model rides too high in the water - the deck is over 2 meters (in scale) above water level, when the actual Monitor was nearly awash. In real life, I don't think anyone can make a model that thin! (If you want to file a millimeter off the bottom of yours to be more accurate, feel free - but don't stop until the hull is paper-thin...)

The model is molded in white resin with the ventilators and smokeboxes painted black. You can use it this way if you want, but I decided to repaint.

The first step is to clean up the model. It's a tiny model, so there's not much to do! The surface of my sample was a little rough, so I scraped it with an old knife blade to smooth it some. I also filed some rough spots from the hull sides. The turret sides are a little uneven, but I thought they'd be more trouble to fix than it was worth, so I left them as-is.

There's a fair bit of controversy as to what color the Monitor would have been - I've now seen claims for white, black, gray and brown. Based on my examination of period photographs, I've chosen to paint this model gray.

My first attempt to paint the model failed, as I found the resin wouldn't take paint well. (At least, not the paint I was using.) So I primed the whole model flat black, and tried again. I wanted a dark gray, but didn't want to go too dark because it would look wrong in this scale. I ended up mixing shades of titanium and silver to create a medium gray with a very slight metallic sheen.


I considered doing some shading or highlighting, but decided the model really didn't need it. The smokeboxes and ventilator boxes were painted dark gray (I didn't go with black as I thought it would be too dark in scale).

With a model of this small size, I knew I definitely wanted to base it. My preferences are for steel bases, so I found a 1" x 1/2" base from my supplies. I painted the bottom black, wrote the name of the ship in white ink using a gel pen, sealed it with clearcoat, flipped the base over, and then had to decide what I wanted to do with the top. I could have tried any of a number of schemes designed to make beatiful displays, but in the end pure functionality won out - I painted it dark blue, which comes close to matching the blue felt I use for water. A coat of clear gloss sealed the topcoat.

ship and base

Then to get a little fancy, I decided to try the trick that harrynoakes mentioned on the ACW Discussion message board. I coated the base with Artist's Gel, a thick gluey substance that's sold in the paint department and dries transparent (and sometimes a little sticky).

base covered with artists gel

I used sort of a stippling action to create a wave pattern. In the picture, you can see an edge of gel forming along the sides of the base - I fixed that after I took the picture, knocking some of the ridge down. Since I had already gloss-coated the base, I didn't have to worry about covering everything now.

Then as harrynoakes suggests, I "ran" the ship onto the base, and in doing so created a bow wave and a wake. You need steady hands to drive the ship precisely where you want it to go, or else you'll have a wake that looks like a drunken sailor was at the helm! You'll also want a block of wood or something similar to keep the base from wandering off while you're sliding the ship into place.

ship in place

Then DON'T TOUCH IT for a few hours, and let the gel dry and turn transparent.

completed and based ship

I thought about tinting the water or painting highlights onto the waves, but decided that I was happy with what I had.