U-Boat Type VII-C 1/72 Build log – Part One

This is my current build I’ve started a shameless amount of time ago. The model was actually a gift to my father in law who, like myself, returned to scale modeling after a long time. So we kind of building this boat together in turns. We had lots of discussions on how to build this model, looked up a lot of references, build logs, etc. At the end of the day we decided to build it as properly as we could.

The perfection bar on Type VII-C Uboat in 1/72 was set by Karel Ton from Netherlands who built this astonishingly beautiful model:

Karel Ton's model

If you click on the image you’ll see the complete Karel’s build log which includes loads of photos and description of his techniques.

We are not aiming to surpass this model in all its beauty, but we will do everything we can to achieve a comparable quality. Our kit actually is not the same as the reference. Karel’s build is the U-995 boat, the only one of Type VII-C survived. The boat is now a museum ship in Laboe, Germany. A kit that corresponds to this boat is Revell 05045 and it is a Type VII-C/41 boat. Our kit is Revell 05015 Type VII-C, which is an earlier version of the boat. The kit allows choosing between several specific boats. We decided to build U-552 which is one of them.

The Revell kits are fairly well studied by modelers and detailed documentation exists on what needs to be fixed in a kit to achieve better historical conformance to one of the better known boats. U-552 is one of such boats, possibly the second most well-researched after U-995. This was one of the main factors in deciding to build it. Although the words on historical accuracy were uttered, it is not the main focus of the build. We will try to create a consistent representation of the ship, but we have not exhausted all research options and I’m not sure we ever will. This build is mostly for pleasure.

In this and following posts I’ll try to describe the the steps we do and decisions we make. I will also illustrate the techniques we use although they are mostly adopted from Karel’s build log. And, without further ado, here it goes.

The boat gives plenty of opportunities for improvements in terms of realistic touch. The kit comes with floodholes closed and the hull smooth as a baby’s bottom. The first step we took is adding “oil canning” to the external hull. This was done by scrubbing areas between rivets with curved scalpel blade.

Oil canning on external hull

After that some texture was added to the visible parts of pressure hull. This was done by adding random roughness with dremel tool and a larger cutter and then sanding out some of the resulting relief.

Texture on pressure hull

Saddletanks were also scrubbed to display oil canning and reflect wear of a boat being in service for some time.

Oil canning on saddletanks

After that we opened the floodholes first by cutting out some of the plastic from the back side and then drilling out the holes. Some of the floodholes and other openings have incorrect placement in the kit and will be reworked. Also there are two large sets of floodholes above keel at the bow and stern. Some time ago there was a PE set available to replace these holes, but it’s not on the market any more. I’ve monitored ebay for a year and haven’t encountered it once. So this has to be reworked as well but I’m not sure on the technique. More on that later.

The torpedo gates were cut out and replaced with PE parts. Due to a fanciful curvature of the bow at this site, it took some work. To ease it a little I tempered the PE parts so they became soft and easier to bend to place.

Torpedo gates being glued in place with epoxy glue. My first attempt was to use green stuff which turned out to be of rather low tack, then ca glue which also didn’t work well due to its brittleness, so this is actually the third take. This one works good. Please remember, we’re returning to the hobby after a long time so our technique builds as we go. Note reversed pad of the clamp, it’s underside has a ledge allowing to better point the pressure.

Torpedo doors

Thin front border broke a couple of times, this will be fixed on sanding and priming stage.

Torpedo doors

The kit has the long gap between top of saddletanks and upper board sealed. Properly made gap is a source of added amount of realism since ribs and parts of saddletanks can be seen through it. So we cut out the board panels above saddletanks. This was done by scrubbing with the backside of #11 blade and came out very clean. As the kit’s saddletanks terminate abruptly at the board, they need to be extended a bit to the inside of the hull. This was done using 1mm sheets of plastic. The endings had to be made separately due to the size of plastic sheets.

Middle part of a saddletank gets fixed in place.

Saddletank extension

To reinforce the structure, arcs from sprue plastic were added underneath.

Saddletank extension reinforcement

The 1mm plastic sheets turned out to be too tough to be easily bent lengthwise. Although we managed to fix them to place, 0.75 sheets would fit easier.

After the glue set, saddletanks’ seams were puttied and sanded.

Saddletank extension sanded

Then covered with ca glue to even out minor nicks.

Saddletank extension seam ca glued

At one location extension did not fit good so the pit had to be puttied with milliput.

Saddletank extension puttied with milliput

Which was then sanded out and covered with ca glue to smooth out the edges.

Saddletank extension milliput smoothing with ca glue

End of Part One. Please continue to Part Two.

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