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Kajika Hiei 1915

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/700 scale ship kit
Designed by British naval architect George Thurston, the Kongo-class battlecruiser Hiei served the Japanese navy during World War I. After modernization in the 1930s, which included extra armor, aircraft catapults, and a new superstructure, Hiei was part of the task force escorting the carriers that launched the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship was crippled and sunk off Guadalcanal in November 1942.

Kajika’s waterline kit represents Hiei shortly after it was commissioned in WWI. The crisply molded plastic parts feature scale-fine — and consequently fragile — masts with integral yardarms, sharp rain gutters over the portholes, planking on decks, and nice ship’s boats. The main and secondary guns have recessed muzzles, and the funnels are one-piece affairs. No flash was present, and mold seams were insignificant. The clear 11-step instructions occupy one double-sided sheet. 

Kajika supplies several detail sets to enhance the kit, and I used most of them on my build. (The full list is in the sidebar.) That meant rejiggering the order of construction to attach those, as well as for painting.

I started with the self-adhesive wooden deck, as the nine parts need to be in place before anything is fitted to the deck. They range in size from tiny platforms to a full-length upper deck. I painted small deck details first, including all 44 coal-scuttle hatches. The wood sections fit perfectly, but the upper deck wanted to stick too early and took work to relocate. 

Returning to Step 1, the bridge superstructure, ladders, and railing from the add-on photo-etch (PE) set were added. The build became a constant balancing act between instruction sheets to get each part in place. Fortunately, the PE instructions are color-coded with bend direction. Take care, as the PE parts are scale-thin and easily damaged if mishandled.

Many platforms and outriggers on the thin masts were replaced with PE. But some, such as the searchlight platform on the aft mast, were too thin to support the topmast. So, I used the kit part. I left the bipod supports off until I attached the masts in Step 9 to ensure proper alignment. 

I rigged the topmasts at this point using Kajika’s aftermarket thread. No rigging diagram was included, so I referred to a side view of the Kongo from 1914.

Replacing the nicely molded plastic guns with Kajika’s excellent turned-brass barrels was relatively simple. The 15cm guns fit the locating holes for the plastic equivalents perfectly. However, each 36cm barrel must be fitted to the base of the plastic main guns. I drilled a small hole from the breech end, then cut off the barrels. 

I removed large ejector-pin stubs under the decks so they fit flush with the hull. A metal bar mounted on the waterline plate adds heft to the model.

Deviating from the instructions, I attached davits to the decks before installing the ship’s boats. After attaching the PE captain’s walk and nameplates at the stern, I mounted the model on the aftermarket plastic display base.

Overall, Kajika’s Hiei is a fine kit with many features that are simply enhanced by the addition of aftermarket parts. I recommend the basic kit to anyone with experience, but caution that certain parts are very fragile — much like repairing a butterfly wing. Working with the extras will require the patience of an experienced modeler. 

Also used: Hiei 1915 photo-etched details (No. KM71008, $41.60), 124 parts, a little fragile; Hiei 1915 wood deck (No. KM71009, $37.90), 9 parts, thin, self-adhesive planking; Kongo 1915 brass 36cm gun barrels (No. KM71002, $17.57) 8 parts; Kongo 1915 1914 15cm gun barrels (No. KM71003, $20.34) 16 parts; Kongo 1914 rigging line (No. KM71006, $8.32), a spool of superfine elastic line from Uschi van der Rosten; Generic anchor chain (No. 71012, $13.87), accurate figure-8-shaped chain; Display base (No.71013, $55.47), no instructions, 2 clear acrylic sheets, 8 metal bolts

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2018 issue.
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