HMS Norfolk, RN Type 23 Frigate
Skytrex - 1/700 white metal
By: Mike Dunn
heard a lot of talk about the white-metal ship market recently, some good
but most bad. I was, therefore, very interested in seeing some photos of white-metal
ships in the Members Models pages (sent in by Chris Drage), especially in
the Type 23 frigate. After checking the price in an issue of Navy News (a
monthly publication by the RN for servicemen & their families), I called
Skytrex up and ordered one. A few days later, a slim Jiffy bag arrived, containing
a model of the lead ship of the class, HMS Norfolk.
The box itself is very nondescript - it's large enough for the job, and has no markings at all bar the product number of the ship. Opening it reveals a bubble-wrapped hull, under which are some white-metal detailing parts - more on them later. Also included was an ad for other ships in their range (W.W.II in this ad), "instructions", and a colour printout of the final result.
The hull is well-wrapped in bubble-wrap, and after unwrapping you are presented with a nice little ship. Almost all of the vessel is here, on a single casting - hanger, amidships funnel, bridge, ship's boats, and most of the weaponry. On turning the hull over, the lightness of the casting is revealed as the ship is hollow. This is a nice idea for several reasons - it keeps the production cost down for us, the modellers; it keeps the weight of the finished model (with or without diorama) down; and it reduces postage costs.
Moving into detail on the hull - lets cover the bad features first. My example has a couple of small (sub-1mm) air bubbles on each side; the tip of the bow has some extra white metal; as does the port-side by the stern, and the base of the stern itself. Oh, and the anchor chains, while better than moulded-on plastic kits have, aren't as clear as photo-etch chains. Erm, that's it. On the good side, the model has watertight hatches where there should be hatches; ladders where there should be ladders; raised access panels; crosshatching on the Lynx heli-deck; basically, if it can be moulded onto the hull (as opposed to being a separate part), it's there. I'm VERY impressed by the way they have the ship's boats in place; with the missile weaponry (both the Harpoon and Sea Wolf systems); with the level of detailing overall, actually! I have seen injection-moulded and resin kits with less detailing AFTER they have been completed!
Now, what about the other bag, with detailing parts in? Opening this reveals 14 parts - the 4.5" gun; the mainmast with 4 yardarms; 4 davits (two per sprue); two Type 911 (or later) Sea Wolf tracking radars; aft aerial & yardarms; and three heli-netting rails for the heli-deck. The gun is a single piece, and has the barrel cast onto it - very fine casting here. The mainmast is nicely done, with hatches, ladders and various radars cast into it; however, the four yardarms are clunky. While they have enough detailing to be used, I probably won't. The davits are paired up, and are acceptable. The Sea Wolf radars are quite neat. The aft aerial is OK, but the cast-in yards are again clunky - I'll probably do some surgery here. Lastly, the two long and one short flight-deck nets. Well, these are a total disappointment. I thought the yards were poor until I looked at these. To be fair, both these and the yards are acceptable, but only just. If I'm going to look at these, I want to be able to see through them, as you can in real life.
Lastly - the instructions. These consist of a top-down look at the model, with the 14 extra parts beside it, with arrows pointing to their locations. That's it. OK, with so few parts, I wasn't expecting a 10-page set, but I was expecting a bit more than this. It's adequate. The colour picture is decent - it can be used as a good painting guide, which is fortunate, as there is nothing else for that. Once more - adequate.
What would I like to see changed? Well, to start with a photo-etch sheet replacing the heli-netting wouldn't come amiss, nor would ordinary railings for the remainder of the ship. The yards could do with the PE treatment as well, and add in the aft aerial. Replace the cast-on anchor chains with PE, and carefully drill a fine hole through the top of the bow. Add on a Lynx helicopter, or even a Merlin, as none is provided. And provide better instructions.
So - what is my overall impression? I like it. Apart from being the best kit of a Type 23 frigate (OK, it's the ONLY one!), the casting is well-done on the main hull, with good detailing. Some time will be needed to clean up the excess white metal both here and on the detailing parts, but nothing more than expected for resin kits. Get hold of a heli, and some photo-etch, and these will turn a very nice kit into a wonderful one. This model can be highly recommended.