I wonder if the members of this forum could help us out with a little survey we are doing at the museum. We would like to know what you think of the different Vasa wooden kits currently on the market. As far as I know, there are at least three, Billing and Corel in 1:75 and Sergal (Mantua?) in 1:60. Are there any others that you are building?
If you are in the process of building one of these kits, or have finished one, could you provide a brief evaluation (or a long one, if you like) that covers the following points:
1. Kit format (plank-on-frame/plank-on-bulkhead/solid hull) and type of materials (metal castings or plastic sculptures/gun/gun carriages/fittings) 2. Quality and quantity of materials 3. Nature of documentation (plans/instructions/reference material) and its quality 4. Ease or pleasure of construction 5. Value
No need to worry about accuracy, I already know that none of them are as accurate as we would like! I also know that none of them provide really adequate documentation, otherwise we would not need this web forum .
What we are looking for is some sense of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the available offerings, based on first-hand experience rather than the typical internet or model publication in-box review.
I’m one year into building the Billing Boats Vasa. I have experience in building and painting plastic models since I was a kid and have scratch built models in styrene earlier. The BB Vasa is my first wooden ship model.
1. Kit format (plank-on-frame/plank-on-bulkhead/solid hull) and type of materials (metal castings or plastic sculptures/gun/gun carriages/fittings) I find the kit to be good shapewise compaired to the real ship. It’s not hard to adjust or reshape the wood parts like the towers to look like the real Vasa. It does mean that you need to do some extra work compared to what the instructions say (I guess that’s true to most ship builds) but you can use the original parts and get a good representation shape wise.
Plank on frame. This worked fine I think. I could shape the planks like the real ship at the bow. For proportional reasons I decided to do it single planked like the kit is designed for even if the shape of the hull planks should be more curved, looking from the side. I have no opinion on the wood used as I want to stain and paint the hull for realism. As long as it’s easy to shape, sand and paint I’m happy.
Plastic sculptures A few times I’ve heard builders not liking the plastic sculptures and preferring metal, but the plastic material allows easy reshaping and thinning down which is crucial to give them a good fit and look realistic. With metal you would have to shape the tower after the sculptures, not the other way around, so Billings if you read this I hope you keep the plastic sculptures! The design of the sculptures in many cases are based on the Landstöm drawings. Most are good, but the polish noblemen at the catheads doesn’t work at all and need to be scratched.
Painting plastic is also a bliss and if you want to make your build polychrome it’s a huge advantage. I wouldn’t buy a Vasa model with 300+ sculptures if they weren’t easy to reshape and paint, not if the construction is like this anyway.
Cannons and carriages. Except the two falconet wagons that are all wrong, the upper deck carriages are quite good actually. The wheels are made of brass and a pain to paint. The upper deck cannons are only two designs: howitzers and falconets. I scratched the eight 3 pounders to give it more variety and look closer to the real ship.
The gun ports are the issue with this kit. They are fake glue on plates and are a strange solution when looking at all the work Billings did to get the overall kit correct. You need to make open gun ports Billings. Good thing is that it’s not that hard to do yourself. The gundeck cannons are only half the length designed to be glued to the fake gunports.
2. Quality and quantity of materials Like I said previously I don’t mind the wood, it’s easy to shape sand and paint. Someone interested in a natural look of the wood might want to replace it or buy prefered wood and make a second layer of planking.
Everything supposed to be in the kit was there and I had no problem with the quality.
3. Nature of documentation (plans/instructions/reference material) and its quality
Instructions The instructions are somewhat confusing but if you take your time you will be fine. It could definitely be better. Like said, it is in some cases based on the Landström work and some designs like the falconet gun ports or the top shape of the akterspegel could be closer to the original.
4. Ease or pleasure of construction Making the open gunports made the kit more complicated but I think it was well made as you can tweak it and get it close to the original. I’m enjoying to build it.
5. Value I paid 2500 kronor and that was a good price for a kit like this.
6. Summary This kits strenght is the shape of the hull, stern and beekhead, is's really close to the original ship, with some tweaking anyway, especially the galleries and towers. You need to make open gun ports though and some details like the polish noblemen and cannons could be better. The plastic sculptures is a big advantage really as it lets you shape and tweak them to fit your ship and are easy to paint.
In general the design of the Corel kit is based on the information in the 70’s and not updated.
- In general the shape of the hull is not correct
- colorscheme according instructions is blue/gold (even blue impregnated wood provided)
- not all figures are correctly in shape and quantities
- the kit has a lot of possibilities to update according actual investigations in the museum, but this is the freedom of the builder
I cannot judge at this time about the masts and rigging, I will add this reply in a few years once I am at that stage.
1. The kit is based on plank-on frame with a double layer, second layer is partly walnut and Mahoney.
a. All castings are made from metal and gold color, (based on the earlier investigations). A disadvantage is that the metal castings are very difficult to remodel in case these do not fit perfectly. (see also the remarks of Matti
b. Guns are all from black metal
c. Gun carriages for the upperdeck in wood provided
d. Blocks and rope for rigging provided are standard/good quality
2. The provided wood is very good and quantity is ok so there is no problem if some parts needs to be redone. Quantity of the castings is just ok, but when extra items are needed these are easy available in several shops.
3. Drawings are good detailed based on the kit design, manual is provided in Italian and English (part list was not translated in English) I received luckily a Dutch translation from my modelshop.
4. Construction of the kit is good. Kit is no starters kit and a builder needs to have good model skills and not advisable for starters.
5. I have bought the kit in Antwerp for Euro 435,00.
if you need more information, let me know. I assume you will also add a link to this forum for new builders as a good source for information to remodify/update the existing kits Further I assume that the other Corel builders here will add there comments also
Hello all. I agree with all the points Jan V made above.I'm building the Corel kit also. I should add there are a few mistakes in the instructions, small things like listing a single block where there should be a double, slots in the false keel not wide enough to accommodate the masts. missing hole in false deck for mizzen mast and several other small issues. Actually no big deal. In general I am happy with the kit, considering I am not a purist and my ships are to be displayed as decorative items, so absolute accuracy is not important for me *at this moment*. I know this kit is about 30 years old so, much about the Vasa has changed since then, and Corel hasn't updated or upgraded the kit. They still spell it Wasa.
There aren't but two options: Do it fast, or do it right.
Here is Shels review that I repost here so we get all reviews in one thread. This is a good thread for people researching the different models.
A REVIEW of the SERGAL #737 VASA KIT By Shel Urlik
Most hobbyist modelers will like the Vasa model built to the “typical mythical” accuracy of this kit, and skilled purists, who model to near perfection, will scratch-build. In between are modelers, like myself, who want a prefabricated kit to facilitate building a model that can be enhanced to their heart’s desire. After two years of assembling it to completion I think that this is a very good kit. It can produce a creditable ship built stock out of the box. It has served well as a basis for the much-enhanced model I just had to build because the existence of the real Vasa and all its accumulated documentation staring at me would give me guilt feelings if I didn’t correct inaccuracies and include missing details. The kit’s most obvious errors, the wrong lower aft hull shape, lack of clinker planking, simplified armament, omission of peripheral fife rails and guesstimated rigging scheme are correctable.
Have your two-wheel dolly ready when this kit arrives at your door. It’s a 40 pound shipment of wood and metal that takes some pleasurable time to get familiar with. The immediate eye-catchers are six cards with hundreds of lost wax castings of ornaments, statues, guns etc. attached in their approximate locations over line drawings of the hull; more about these castings later. You’ll also see 11 plywood sheets of laser cut parts, two trays of fittings, 12 pages of plans in Italian, an instruction booklet with parts list in several languages and a small lumberyard. Just add in a few hundred hours and you can get a 1:60 scale 48-inch (1180mm) long beauty to enhance your decor. The display case housing my model actually measures 52 inches long, 20 wide and 36 high (1320 x 510 x 915mm). Displaying a model this large is inconvenient in many homes so the Sergal Vasa isn’t for everyone and smaller scale model kits are available, but Vasa’s history helps here. Vasa capsized and sunk in Stockholm harbor early in its maiden voyage August 10, 1628 due to deficient roll stability caused mainly by a high center of gravity. This instability became known by authorities when the hull was floated during construction, so probably to provide some safety margin on this first voyage the ship was not fitted with its topgallant masts and had only four lower sails bent. Therefore, depicting the ship as it was configured without topgallant masts on its only voyage, as I did, saves 9 inches (230mm) of height with a corresponding savings of display case weight and bulk. I also like the fewer sails to rig and interfere with viewing the hull. Vasa was raised in 1961 and is now Sweden’s premier tourist attraction and is a renowned example of marine archeology.
Critiquing the kit itself, the strip wood was of excellent quality and color except for one important exception. The 100 plus full-length strips of 1 x 6mm walnut for the outer planking of the double planked hull were of such poor quality and color to be unusable. I simply put them in my remnants box and ordered new wood to my liking. The high quality plywood sheets were laser cut to yield most of the shaped parts and walnut surfaced ply was supplied for visible parts. The laser cutting was eerily perfect so the parts fit, and much of the bulkhead on false keel hull building went swiftly. Of course, some plywood parts must be painted or colored to disguise exposed edges. I guess Sergal has no third axis on their CNC equipment because the kit lacked any completely shaped parts.
The tour de force of this kit is its lost wax cast metal ornamentation set. The real Vasa had colorful statues, crests and trim seemingly everywhere and this imparts beauty and panache to the model. The castings’ quality was better than I could hope to sculpt, and I guessed that sculpting my own ornamentation would double building time, however, I know some scratch builders get great pleasure from such work. Detailed literature exists on the real sculptures and I saw that the kit’s renderings were mostly close to the originals. Very few (maybe 10) of the hundreds of castings were defective and I ruined some so I had to order a few replacements, which was not that easy. I found that Cornwall Model Boats in the UK were the only people that could get the Sergal factory in Italy to respond. Whatever metal alloy Sergal uses fabricates beautifully; it can be filed, sawed, soldered, bent and tweaked yet has enough hardness to grip in pliers or a vise. Almost every casting needed to be thinned and worked to fit the curves of the hull and I made much use of my trusty Delta 1-inch belt sander, rotary cut-off wheels and a duck billed pliers. The kit attempts to use single pagoda like castings to decorate each stern gallery tower but it’s impossible to fit them well. I cut up the pagodas and individually fit the 20 or so pieces to each tower. I found it necessary to clean and prime this metalwork before painting. Lacquer thinner, white primer and quality acrylic craft paints worked well for me. After weeks of working with that wonderful workable metal alloy I developed symptoms of a high serum lead level, which a blood test confirmed. This metalworking was a suspected cause and it took 3 months on iron pills to normalize, so I advise a quality particle mask be handy and used.
Sergal evidently believes that a picture is worth a thousand words because the plans are replete with small inset sketches of building procedures keyed to the appropriate technical line drawings probably reducing translated text a lot and I think this works OK. Some of the plans are drawn 80% of full size, just big enough to fool the eye and remind me to measure twice and cut once. Vasa’s rigging was poorly documented and nonexistent after 300 years underwater so the plans mostly depict an 18th century generic square rig scheme. A new volume detailing the Vasa rigging is expected from the Vasa Museet in mid 2014, so this inaccuracy is correctable. The plans are printed on both sides of the paper sheets. This caused me no real problems but one side printing would be handier.
Some of the fittings supplied should be better for this expensive ($900) kit. The kit would have you fabricate faux chain plates out of brass wire and supplies coiled wire with the strange instruction to straighten and harden the wire by stretching it between a vise and pliers. Gun port lid hinges were clunky. Only four diameters of rigging thread were supplied. The rudder hinges were too narrow for the 8mm thick rudder and sternpost. The rigging blocks were mostly shapeless wood tid-bits. Sergal’s optional set of sails were toy-like with thick dark brown stitching on too heavy tan colored cloth so I pirated and altered some fairly realistic Corel sails.
Building time, craftsmanship challenges, repetitiveness and problem solving somehow matrix for grading building difficulty. This kit has all of the above and any reviewer would rate this kit “advanced”. I would add that this ambitious kit seems soundly conceived, well engineered, very well manufactured and straightforward to build thus enabling a competent but less than expert builder, like myself, to successfully complete it. I much enjoyed building this boat kit. Using this kit as the basis, I produced a splendid model of the beautiful historic Vasa, the exact result I wanted. That result is priceless to me so my value received is off the scale.
Here is a compilation of my ratings using my scale of excellent – very good – good – fair – poor. 1. Wood quality – mostly excellent with the exception of some poor planking strips. 2. Prefabrication – excellent. 3. Plans and instructions – good. 4. Ornamental cast metalwork – excellent 5. Fittings quality – poor 6. Ease of building – excellent for an advanced model shipbuilding project. 7. Construction concepts – very good 8. Accuracy – fair 9. Engineering – excellent but dated. 10. Value for cost of materials and production compared to other kits – fair. 11. Hobby cost (guesstimated) - $900/1200 hours = $.75 per hour. LOL. 12. Value regarding my great pleasure, pride and satisfaction – off the scale. 13. Probability of completion by a competent modeler – excellent. 14. Overall – very good.
I bought the Billings kit back in early December, so I am not far along in assembly. I do have some opinions to share, mostly along the lines of Matti's above. My background: I've been building models and painting miniature figures all my life. This is my second wooden ship build; the first was maybe 10 years ago.
I bought the kit for its stem, stern, and ornamentation accuracy, knowing that there would be other aspects needing changing. In that respect I'm happy with the kit.
The plastic ornamentation is in my opinion a major plus. Much better detail than gilded metal, easier to rework, bend, etc, and much easier to paint.
The correctness of detail is also good.
The gunports, as Matti said. Just unacceptable in a kit of this expense. Reworking them is of course possible, and I'm going to do that, but it's a bad oversight on their part.
Other plastic parts: for some reason, the gratings in my kit are made of plastic. The instructions refer both to plastic gratings and to assembly of wooden gratings, although the part numbers for the wooden gratings are not in the kit. In any case, fabricating gratings or buying pre-cut wood gratings is fairly straightforward. The gun port frames are plastic, which is also a minus. They will be replaced with wood in my build.
The cannons are generic, made of brass, and lack any kind of detail. The false cannons are very short since they work with Billings' gunport design which itself is badly flawed.
Carriage wheels are brass rather than wood. I will substitute wood wheels of the correct size from Amati.
The rigging thread is OK, just standard kit issue. Will be replaced with proper rope when I get to the rigging.
The instructions are terrible. It looks like they changed their laser-cut layout and updated the instructions, but my kit uses the old layout. So the parts master they provide, showing which parts are on which slabs of wood, are all wrong. That makes finding parts by number a bit of a scavenger hunt. Annoying more than anything else. Luckily we are blessed with tons of photos of the real thing and the 1:10 model, so the instructions become less important.
The kit is single plank on bulkhead, which is tricky to do well, since you can't fix the hull shape prior to applying the second layer of planking. The wood is poor quality and too wide for scale. Like all kits that supply strip-wood, you need to buy your own wide pieces of wood in order to properly spile the planks so they fit the compound curves of the hull without requiring edge-bending. I'm replacing all the wood with mahogany, and spiling the planks from wide stock.
The kit bulwarks are solid, large pieces of wood with pre-cut gunports for the 16 weather-deck guns. Unfortunately they are straight on the bottom, rather than following the curve of the bu;warks. So if you use these pieces out of the box, the planking line below them doesn't follow the curve of the tops of the bulwarks properly. The result is that the hull planks don't follow the curve either, and the wales, glued over the planking, cross the hull planking at odd angles, which looks bad. I ended up building my own bulwarks from strip wood so the hull planking will look right.
I realize this reads like a lot of minuses and only a few pluses, but overall for a kit it's not bad. You just need to understand what you are getting. I would rather have the accuracy they provide, and fix the things that are badly designed. Definitely not a kit for beginning model builders.
What I really need is a correct set of 1:75 scale artillery - my current best idea is to use baroque era cannon from Amati, but they are still of course not right, just better than what the kit provides.
As far as value, I paid maybe $450 for the kit, plus a bunch of extra for fittings and wood I'm replacing. Especially given the number of hours of enjoyment the build will provide, it's way, way cheaper than my other hobby, which is restoring classic automobiles :-).
Nice review! Regarding the plastic gratings it seems like you have an older version of the kit, my gratings are made of plywood. I'm pretty sure I have the latest version. It also have added pages of instructions mapping the new laser-cut pattern.
This raises a good point though as its nice that Billings upgrade their model kits. It also means people might consider getting the latest version if going for a Billings.
It seems like I have an older version of the kit, but newer instructions, which is odd. And while it's great to update the kit, they also then need to make it clearer what version of the kit you are getting - 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 :-)
None of the kit problems are major, and dealing with them adds to the fun.
One thing I have been thinking of as the build progresses is that the Vasamuseet could make 3D scans of the ornamentation available to hobbyists. We could then re-scale them to any size, send them to a 3D printing service, and have perfectly accurate ornamentation. I'm sure there would be loads of legal/copyright issues to deal with though.
I have a comment to add to the review of the Sergal kit.I mostly agree with the review except the strip wood in my kit was of decent quality.On the other hand some of the plywood was awful - if not very careful it would actually fall apart in my hands.I had to re-glue some back together or make new pieces.
Perhaps someone may find the following review of the Corel model amusing: (by the way, I have still not started my scratchbuild project, which is of F.H Chapman's frigate Camilla. Got kind of stuck fixing the Corel Vasa model, family, kids, a few plastic models, work, -Not enough hours in the day by far...)
At 2002-11-26 05:36 +01:00, "Peter Jenssen" <peter_jenssen@...> wrote: >I just got the Corel Wasa kit for a birthday present from my wife. >This is a good opportunity to get warmed up before I can start my >scratchbuild project. > >Anyone have any warnings, tips etc before I get too far? <snip>
A model built from a kit of "Wasen" was submitted by Corel to the Wasa Museum for approval in 1980 or 1983, I cannot remember when, but there were too many errors for the museum to be able to approve it. It was put in a corner in one of the hall ways where we used to make fun of it.