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USS Luzon, launched in 1927, was one of eight gunboats designed and built to protect American interests along China's Yangtze River. Luzon operated in and around various Chinese ports, including Nanking and Shanghai. As war broke out between Japan and China, Luzon evacuated American Embassy staff to Chunking, and continued her patrols. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Luzon transferred to the Philippines, and patrolled those waters until the final American surrenders on 6 May, 1942. To avoid capture, Luzon and other warships were scuttled.

USS Luzon's story doesn't end there. Raised by the Japanese in May, 1942, she went on to serve as the gunboat Karatsu, working with the Japanese Army around the Philippines in counter-guerrilla operations; during that time she is credited with sinking the U.S. submarine USS Cisco. Torpedoed by USS Narwhal in March 1944, Luzon/Karatsu was towed back to the Philippines for repairs, but resources were too few and her priority too low for the war effort, so she was scuttled as a blockship in Manila Bay on 5 February 1945.

This is one of those kits that I saw and said "Oh, it's cool, tiny, and I'll bet I can knock it out in a weekend or two." And while this is the first 1/700 scale kit I've built since I was in high school, had tiny size, fiddly bits, and a few kit issues, it turned out I finished her in just over a month; a new record for me. I'd done the initial sanding and cleaning on this kit a year or so before I actually started building, but once I started, it went rather quickly.

Paints Used:

  • Hull white: 75 parts flat white, 4 parts Sail Color (Mr. Color)
  • Deck Gray: straight Mr. Surfacer primer
  • 3" mounts: Light Gray #97 (Mr. Color)
  • Stacks and vents: Floquil Depot Buff
  • "Lines" on reel and life rings: Vallejo Buff
  • Life rings: Vallejo Bright Orange
  • All "black" colors are done with Vallejo German Gray
  • Water: base color Vallejo English Uniform Brown, random highlights airbrushed with English UB mixed with Vallejo Iraqi Sand (light on the sand addition), gloss coated, then a glaze of Vallejo Russian Green.

This kit is tiny, just over 3" long when completed. The build went fairly smoothly, the only issues were roughness on the decks that needed multiple passes of filler and sanding to smooth out, and a tendency for the paint not to stick to the resin during masking, despite multiple cleanings with everything from hot water to lacquer thinner. I mostly got around the paint issues by free-handing most of the details, and leaving off things such as black stripes on the side of the hull that couldn't be done without masking.

Tapered brass rod is included for the masts, which is a great touch. The cross members are a little thick to my eyes, though, and were I to do it again, I'd replace them with thinner aftermarket rod.

Kit-included PE is very nice, especially the gun shields that one folds to a three-dimensional final product. I had problems with the thinness of the bridge windows, so replaced them with 1/350th scale ship's ladder from the spares box. I rigged the model with fly-fishing line. I didn't have a full rigging diagram for the ship, and photos vary depending on when they were taken, so I put in the basic mast stays, lines for flags, and kept it at that.

Crew members are Eduard's pre-painted 1/700 scale product. I still feel a little dirty using a pre-painted product, but they look decent, and painting those things myself would have likely driven me mad.

I tried a new technique for the water on this build: using textured water color paper, I cut out the shape of the hull, and set styrene rods underneath to create swells, and then painted and created waves and wakes with the typical acrylic gel paste. The texture of the paper gives a nice stippled water surface effect. I went dark with the colors to convey a muddy river appearance, and had a lot of fun blending and glazing the shading and effects with both bristle brushes and my airbrush.

I had a lot of fun building this kit, and it's unique. I consider boats like Luzon to be direct descendents of the American Civil War river gunboats I like so much, and that along with her interesting lines are what drew me to her. I didn't win any awards with it at the Nationals this past year, but I had a lot of people come over and ask me "What the heck is that thing?", which is just fine with me.

Anyone wishing a break down of the build process can download a PDF of my Modelwarships.com posts on the project HERE.

~April 2013

Photos were taken with my Canon 400D (Rebel Xti) and 50mm fixed lens, and also my Canon SD700IS, as it has a better macro lens. I used a 24" square fabric photo tent and several external daylight-corrected CFL light sources. Post-processing done in Photoshop using a gray-card reference shot.


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