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Scratch Building Ship's Weapons

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      Gidday All, my modeling passion is mainly warships in 1/600 scale, most of my models to date being Airfix ship kits. Unfortunately 1/600 is not a common scale now but I find it suits me. And disappointingly it seems that many of the kits are no longer being produced. Those of you familiar with Airfix ship kits will know that their detail is often somewhat bland, even crude by many standards. However they were often quite cheap, in my part of the world anyway, and hence they suited my mediocre skill level and limited budget, so this is an observation, not a criticism.

       I bought quite a few Airfix ship kits a number of years ago when they were still available, and modify most of them now as I build them. And while I do so I'm replacing many of their small parts with those I scratch build, such as light guns, Carley floats, DC (depth charge) throwers, anchors, screws etc. The parts I make are still a bit crude and can never compare with PE items, bought AM items and now 3D printed parts, but I enjoy making them. Plus it saves me a bit of money, something I have to consider now that I'm retired. I've wondered if other modelers are in a similar situation to me and would be interested in how I make some of these items, so hence this thread.

       I intend to keep each item in a separate post, plus leave this initial post as a sort of index which I can update by editing. I also intend this thread to be informative, so if anyone has any other ideas please feel free to make suggestions. Anyway, here goes  .   .   .


In order of posting, below are the methods on how I make:-

              20mm single Oerlikons

              Depth charge throwers

              Quad 2lb pompoms

              Octuple 2lb pompoms

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20mm OERLIKONS - pedestal mounts


       These are rather simple AA guns, and depict the RN version (as I understand it) without the gyro gunsight fitted to USN weapons. They also lack the gunner's shoulder supports and harness - there's a limit on what I can do at this scale. This post depicts single mounts, but twins can also be made the same way.


The top part of the photo shows the construction of the splinter shield, while the lower part shows the pedestal construction and final assembly.

20mm Oerlikon construction  combined

     When I make small items comprising of very small parts such as this I usually cut my strips, rods etc longer than required. This gives me something to hold onto. The excess is not wasted, it is used for the next job. I use Evergreen styrene rods and strips to make small parts.

The splinter shields (upper view)
The splinter shields are made from 0.13mm (5 thou) styrene. As far as I know there are no strips of this thickness so I cut my own strips from a 0.13mm sheet.

1.   Cut a strip 2mm (2.5mm for twin guns) wide. Then drill a 0.6mm (1mm for twins) hole in the centre, just over 1mm from the end. The end of the strip is 'up'. I usually pinprick the hole first.
2.   To strengthen the base of the shield I glue a strip of 0.25 x 0.5mm strip (Evergreen 100) just under but touching the hole.
3.   When the glue is dry trim off the excess strengthening strip, and put it aside for the next shield.
4.   Trim the overall height of the shield to 1.5mm, measured from the lower edge of the strengthening strip (left edge in this view). Then cut away the centre of the shield to create two half shields.
5.   Cut the completed shield from the strip, and begin the next shield.

The gun mounting (lower view)
The base ring is from 0.25 x 1.5mm strip (Evergreen 103) and the pedestal is from 0.75mm rod (Evergreen 210). Again I cut these pieces over-long for ease of handling, and then re-use the off-cuts later. A block of wood with some 1mm holes drilled vertically will be useful here.

1.   Drill a hole in the centre of the base ring strip, about 1mm from the end to take the pedestal rod.
2.   Glue the rod to the strip, allowing at least 2mm of rod protruding upwards from the strip. I lower the long length of the rod into the hole in the wood and then push the strip flat against the top surface of the wood, to keep everything square, flat and perpendicular.
3.   When the glue is dry trim off the excess strip from the base ring with a sharp blade.
4.   File/sand the base ring round and cut the pedestal to the correct height, which is 2mm from the underside of the base ring.
5.   I make a temporary pencil mark on the back of the pedestal (just visible here) then chamfer the front of the pedestal (at the top) to create a flat gluing surface between the pedestal and shield. Glue the shield to the pedestal. (Raising the end of the excess pedestal rod with a spacer will give a slight backward rake to the shield, if desired).
6.   Cut/file a slot into the top of the pedestal for the gun itself. For very fine round files I use a set of gas-welding nozzle cleaners. They work a treat on soft styrene. I'm using the finest one here. The second finest can be used also, plus it can clean up the gun slot if required.
7.   Glue in the gun. The gun is simply stretched sprue, about 0.2mm in diameter, and cut 3.5mm long. About half (or just over) of the gun protrudes out the front of the splinter shield.
8.   Make and attach a spent cartridge collecting bag. This is made from 0.5mm rod (Evergreen 218). Round one end of the rod then cut it about 1mm long (or just under). Glue it to the rear of the pedestal, just under the rear of the gun, with the rounded end down.
9.   Make and attach the magazine drum. Again this is from 0.5mm rod or stretched sprue, cut 0.5mm long or slightly shorter and glued to the top of the gun, about half way between the shield and the rear of the gun. It sits on top of the gun but leans to the right (when viewed from the rear). Good luck with this, I think it is the most difficult part of the whole assembly, getting it to sit just where you want it. If making twin mounts both ammo drums lean outwards from their respective guns.


       Stage 8 (spent cartridge bag) can be omitted if you wish. Also the magazine drum (stage 9) can be attached to the barrel before attaching them to the pedestal (stage7) if you wish. For single guns I sometimes do this and am doing it more often. If so then the magazine drum is glued about 1/3 of the length of the gun, measured from the rear.

20mm constr 125

       Although the gun appears to be nearly 4mm long it's camera perspective. Those pencil marks are 3.5mm apart with the arrow marking the drum position just over 1mm from the rear (1/3 of the length). Since this photo was taken I marked a few more gun lengths so I didn't have to keep re-positioning the taped sprue for each and every gun.

       Also I often leave the cartridge collection bag until last.


       Here are three guns I made for HMS York a few years ago. Sorry about the slightly blurred photo. The guns look a bit better when painted. I'll substitute this photo for a better one when I get one.

20mm constr 160_1500px

Congratulations on your completion. Now go and make some more! If I don't need the excess pedestal rod just yet I don't cut the gun mounting off just yet. I paint it first, then cut the gun mounting off, leaving enough pedestal under the base ring to attach (insert) it to the model. HTH.

Regards to all, Jeff.

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These are the Thornycroft throwers used on RN and RAN ships. The USN K-guns are very similar in appearance and size, the main difference that I can see is the firing charge chamber. These DC throwers I make are quite simple, five pieces, although only four are visible when fitted to the model. To make them I use Evergreen styrene strips and rods. It is my usual practice to cut them long for ease of handling, then afterwards the offcuts can be used for the next job, so they're not wasted. Plus I also work off bits of wood with vertical holes drilled in them, and in this case a fine saw cut also.

     First, the depth charge itself and the thrower barrel. Below is a mixed photo of the stages of their construction.

DC thrower constr pt 1

    1.   The depth charge (DC) is made from 0.75mm styrene rod (Evergreen 210) and the thrower barrel from 0.5mm rod (Evergreen 218). I pinprick the 0.75mm rod about 1mm from the end then drill, first with a 0.3mm or 0.4mm drill then a 0.5mm drill. To hold the rod steady I found it helps if I lay it in a fine saw cut in the wood (top left photo). Don't drill all the way through the DC rod.
     2.   Next, I attach a length of 0.5mm rod for the barrel (top right photo). Very rarely do I find that a 0.5mm rod will go into a 0.5mm hole, I usually drill a 0.6mm hole. In this case the DC will not be wide enough to drill a wider hole so I taper the end of the barrel slightly. You can see it in the photo. Then it's dab on a small amount of glue on the end and push it into the hole, holding it square and central for a few seconds while the glue sets.
     3.   When the glue is dry I cut the DC to the correct length, just under 1.5mm. The first time I did this I laid the thicker DC rod against a steel rule and tried to cut the correct length while getting both sides of equal length. My success in getting the two sides even was rather mediocre, so this time I scratched two straight lines the correct distance apart (the length of the DC) onto a scrap piece of board. I placed the piece on the board with the thin barrel lying midway between the scratched lines then cut the DC to the correct length (bottom photo). Much more successful! I then cut the barrel to a length of just over 1.5mm, (nearly 2mm) as you can see.

Next I made the base plate. This I made from 0.4 x 1.5mm styrene strip (Evergreen 113). You can use 0.5mm thick (Evergreen 123) but I think 0.25mm was too thin, not enough plastic for the glue to bite on - I tried it. Below is a mixed photo of the base plate construction and final assembly.

DC thrower constr pt 2

To attach small parts and fittings to a model I like to use thin rod as pins (plastic dowel if you like), particularly if the piece will be painted a different colour to the surface it will be attached to. This way I can paint both the part and the surface first and get a nice sharp demarcation between the colours when the part is attached.
     4.   Drill a hole (usually 0.6mm) into the styrene strip, about 1mm from the end and glue in a length of 0.5mm rod (top left photo). When the glue is set trim off the stump and file/sand the strip flat. This pin won't be seen when the finished piece is attached to the model.
     5.   Now comes the tricky bit, drilling an angled hole in the base plate (top right photo). Make a pinprick in the centre of the base plate strip, alongside but to the left of the mounting pin in this photo, a distance of about 0.25mm from the edge of the mounting pin you just attached. You can guess this distance, what you are trying to do is drill this hole alongside the mounting pin. I started drilling vertical with a 0.3mm (0.4mm will do) drill to get the hole started. Then a 0.6mm drill vertical also for a start, then lean the drill about 45* to the right and drill all the way through. To stop the drill migrating along the soft styrene strip I placed the end of a steel ruler against the drill to keep it in place.
     6.   Attach the DC and barrel assy (bottom left photo). I found this easier if I had the base plate on a block of wood with the mounting pin down into a hole. When the barrel is into the hole in the base plate I slid a 0.25mm thick strip of styrene under the base plate to raise it slightly to allow the barrel to fit well into the base plate. I forgot to take a photo of this. Sorry. I positioned the barrel to my satisfaction then applied the glue. Once the glue is set you can trim up the underside if necessary.
     7.  Trim the base plate to size, which is about 2mm long, and add the firing charge chamber (bottom right photo). This chamber is from stretched sprue, about 0.3mm thick, and is cut 1mm long. It mounts on the back of the barrel. To handle such fine sprue I tweeked the ends of an old pair of tweezers and then filed them to points with the inner faces flat. In this photo the firing charge chamber is grey, and not as easily seen as the white styrene. Sorry again.

Congratulations. Now paint it, cut the mounting pin to your required length and glue the DC thrower to your model. 
Regards, Jeff.

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One of the light AA guns used on RN and Commonwealth navies was the 2lb pompom, carried in either single, quad or octuple mountings. Below is a photo showing the stages of the quad mounting's construction. Fourteen pieces, although only twelve are visible here.

UL300 quad 2lb pompom construction

1.     The main base (floor) made from 0.5 x 4.8mm styrene strip, and the shaft of 0.75mm rod to mount it to the model. This piece is inverted at present. As usual I've made the rod of excessive length for ease of handling. When the mounting is finally finished I'll cut off the excess and use it for something else. Under the base will be a base ring, made from 3.2mm strip, either 0.25mm or 0.5mm thick. The base ring won't be seen so I see no need to make it round. In front of the base is the first part of the gun assembly. This piece is from 1mm x 1.5mm strip, cut 2mm long. You can see the slots on it to allow the lower pair of guns to fit snug. To have the guns slightly elevated bevel the underside this lower piece a little. To start the slots I used a fine saw then filed them round. For very fine files I use a set of gas-welding nozzle cleaners. They work a treat on styrene.
2.     The first part of the gun assy glued to the main base. The base ring was glued under the main base next. As the base ring will not be visible I made no attempt to get it round, but left it octagonal as seen above. (I think I've already said that).
3.     The two levels of magazine boxes. These were made from 0.5 x 0.75 styrene strip, 2mm long and 5mm long. With hindsight I could have used 0.5mm square section instead to be more accurate, but when I tried it I found it very difficult. Not as much surface contact area for the glue to bite on. To get the 2mm piece exactly midway along the 5mm piece I used an extremely complex and precise item of equipment - the mark 1 eye-ball!
4.     The two levels of magazine glued together. Notice how they are staggered. The upper box is to the rear of the lower box. I've then slotted the upper and lower surfaces for the guns to fit. The depth of the slots is half the thickness of the guns.
5.     The lower guns fitted. The piece is inverted here. The guns are simply stretch sprue, about 0.3mm thick and 4.5mm long.
6.     And the upper guns fitted also. What is not shown here is s small piece that fits between the upper guns, as the real guns themselves fit into a casing.

Here is the finished quad gun assembly, including that extra piece. Yeah, I know, I've omitted the cartridge ejection chute under the guns, the guard-rails and sights. Plus the two rear rounded corners of the main base should be raised. Maybe next time. What is also not shown is the aforementioned cartridge case ejection chute. After this photo was taken I gave it a go. It is simply a small piece of styrene strip (0.25 x 1.0mm), glued on top of the mounting base in front of the guns, long enough to run from the front of the gun assy and protrudes slightly to the front of the base. If I ever get a better photo I'll replace this one.

UL310 quad 2lb pompom


HTH. Regards, Jeff.

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One of the light AA guns used on RN and Commonwealth navies was the 2lb pompom, carried in either single, quad or octuple mountings. Below is a photo showing the stages of the octuple mounting's construction. They look rather complex and fiddly, with 27 individual pieces (more if you like) but they turned out easier than I thought. Below is the method I used.

     First I made the gun and magazine assemblies. If I couldn't make them then the rest would have been rather pointless. As you probably know the mounting has two rows of four guns each, with the two inboard guns mounted a little further forward than the outboard guns. I made each row separately, with the guns glued to a strip that became the main magazine piece also. See below.

2lb pompom oct constr 10

     First, I cut the eight guns. These are from stretched sprue, between 0.3 and 0.4mm thick, and 4.5mm long. These are for mountings with flash guards (not that you can see them) on the muzzles. If you don't want flash guards (and not all mountings had them) then the guns are 4mm long.
     For the main piece I used Evergreen 2025 V-groove, the same that I use for 'planked wood' decks of model warships. I cut a strip of V-groove EXACTLY 1.5mm wide, across the grooves. I didn't think a pencil and ruler would be accurate enough for this so I used another 1.5mm wide strip of styrene to position the steel ruler, then cut with a sharp blade. With styrene sheeting you can often cut a part of the way through then bend down and break off the piece. I wouldn't recommend that method here. Because the strip you're breaking off is so narrow it can become warped. Ask me how I know. Better to cut all the way through. Then sacrifice a very small portion by cutting the v-groove strip at the nearest groove to the edge of the strip for a clean starting point.
     Now the fun starts.
1     Starting at the top of the picture I taped the v-groove to a bit of board to keep it stationary. Have at least 12 grooves protruding from the tape, as shown. I drew two lines in front of the v-groove, 2.0mm and 2.5mm in front. These mark the fronts of the muzzle flash guards. If your model doesn't have them then reduce these distances by 0.5mm. Lay the first gun in the 4th groove from the end, muzzle on the 2.0mm line. Second gun fits in the next groove, at the 2.5mm line. And continue for a total of four guns. From the last gun count another four grooves and mark it with a pencil. This is where you'll cut the piece free BUT BEFORE YOU DO glue a strip of styrene on top of the end magazine, the right hand protruding bit. I used Evergreen 113 (0.4 x 1.5mm) but 103 (0.25 x 1.5mm) would do if your guns are about 0.3mm diameter, that bit of styrene strip at the very top of the photo. I used a piece about 20mm long, for something to hold onto. The offcut can be reused later. Once the glue has dried you can cut the v-groove at your pencil mark. Then lift the tape, slide the v-groove to the right and repeat the procedure.
2     Moving downwards in the photo (I should have numbered these stages) you can see the piece separated from the main v-groove strip, turned around and ready for a strip added above the other side magazine box.
3     You can see both magazine boxes have their top strip added. These give the magazine boxes their correct depth.
4     Now you'll need another piece over the guns themselves, bridging the gap and sitting on the two magazine boxes. Cut another 1.5mm wide strip to a length 3.5mm, but beware, these are different thicknesses. Decide which of your gun rows will be the upper and which will be the lower row. The upper row will have this bridging piece 0.25mm thick. It is simply the top of the box structure housing the guns. The bridging piece on the lower row needs to be 0.4mm thick, 0.5mm will do. This acts as a spacer between the rows of guns. Once this centre piece is glued on you can flip the gun rows upside down and trim off the excess length of the thin strips.
     It might be a good idea to paint the upper and lower surfaces of the magazines at this point, and possibly the front and rear of the gun boxes. In this demo I painted them a neutral grey (Hu64) as I don't know where these will finally be used. I made them for this demo.


Still with me? And now for the base and the final assembly.

2lb pompom oct constr 30

     At 1/600 scale the base platform is a little over 8mm wide. As luck would have it the inner circle of that heavy washer was perfect to scribe a circle.
1.     The base platform is from 0.5mm styrene sheet. As you'll be removing the front bit later you can use scrap bits, provided they're more than 8mm x 6mm. I've done that here, hence that curved cutout at the front. Find the centre and drill a small hole. In this photo the rear of the mounting is UP and the mounting front is DOWN. From the rear measure 2mm and draw a line right across. Then come in 2mm from each end of the line and draw two other lines upwards (rearwards). This marks the positions of two platform steps. Then measure 1.5mm forward from the centre and draw another line across. You'll be cutting along this line, but later. Now cut and trim round the rear half of the platform, making it round if you haven't already done so. Don't bother doing the front, you'll be cutting it away. That piece at no.1 looks to me like an upended cat's face.
2.     Now decide what diameter you want the centre rotating pin (I've used 1.6mm rod for this demo) and widen the centre hole to suit, then glue in the pin. As usual I've made them about 20mm for ease of handling. You can see the top of the rotating pin in this photo, the rest of it is down into the wood block. I've also glued on two 2.0mm wide strips for the steps. They're 0.5mm thick. To give a more accurate height I should have used 0.75mm thick strips but I thought they might be more difficult to trim round. In front is the mounting block for the gun assembly and the cartridge ejection chute. The mounting block is 1.5mm wide and 3.5mm across. If you want your guns at zero elevation then this block needs to be 0.5mm deep. I've used 0.75mm deep strip and sloped it back a little to give the guns a bit of elevation. The cartridge ejection chute is from 0.25mm deep strip, is 2.5mm wide (across), and is a little over 2mm long front to back. Actually, it should be two chutes side by side with a small gap between them, plus tapering sides, but that was beyond me. If you think you can manage it then go for it. 
3.     The platform steps are now trimmed, and the excess platform front cut off. Then I glued in the gun assembly mounting block directly over the rotating pin and finally the cartridge ejection chute. It looks to me a bit like a pig's head with Bugs Bunny's two front teeth. I'd recommend you paint the platform at this point, and possibly the cartridge ejection chute, but not the top of the gun assembly mounting block.
4.     The first row of guns are glued on. This row has the thicker spacer on top. Notice that the magazine upper (and lower) surfaces are painted. In front are the upper row of guns. The actual mountings have some sort of equipment fitted at the front, on either side of the ejection chutes. I'm not sure what they are but I believe the guns were water cooled so they could be pumps (one at least). The fitting on the left of the mounting (right in the photo) is round (an electrical motor?), the other more rectangular. So that's them out front, glued to a 0.25 x 1.5mm strip. For the round fitting I've used 1mm rod, for the other I've used 0.75 x 1.0mm rectangular section strip, upright. If anyone knows what they are, please enlighten me.
5.     And the upper row of guns glued on. Out the front is a base ring, to go under the platform. This is from 3.2mm wide styrene strip and is 0.5mm deep. As it won't be seen I haven't bothered to make it round, just trimmed it a little. On either side of the base ring are those two fittings (pumps, motors?) cut from the strip, leaving about 1mm of strip to glue to the platform. These bits of strip glue under the platform.
6.     And done! After touching up the paint, of course.


Here's a finished mounting.

2lb pompom octuple shipbourne AA gun 30


Sorry if this post was a bit long-winded. Thanks for staying awake. 🙂 HTH. Regards, Jeff.

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Thanks Jeff. The four recipes are brilliant but best of all is finding out how simple it is to scratch build such tiny components. I would find the processes difficult but immensely satisfying I think. It seems that anything is possible.

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  • 1 month later...

Jeff, thanks for the clear instructions - treating it as a production line with templates and jigging and tooling really eases the process.


When I made mine, I cut some slots into a scrap piece of card so I could push in the strip and stretched sprue and chop it off at the edge so I didn't have to measure every time. It certainly made cutting 48 lengths of 4.5mm barrel a lot less painful!

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  • 1 month later...

Only just stumbled on this after seeing the results with your Fletcher build. Fantastic guide Jeff, thank you so much for sharing with us. Some amazing detail just from scratch. Kind of you to suggest we might omit the oerlikon spend cartridge bag!😄


Will definitely be referring back. I'm lucky to model in 700 with all the access to high detail parts that goes with it, but there's a real joy to scratch building. Not to mention no end of more obscure weapon mounts that will one day need building.




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