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Tamiya 1/350 Bismarck Build Review

By Mike Taylor

Date of Review March 2005 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject Bismarck Scale 1/350
Kit Number 78001 Primary Media Styrene, PE
Pros Easy-to-use aftermarket details Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $64.00



It was 64 years ago. Green water broke over the bow beneath a steel gray sky. The Bismarck, pride of the German Navy, was trying desperately to get to France and safety. 3 days ago he had his baptism of fire, sinking the pride of the Royal Navy the HMS Hood while taking little damage himself. A shot taken in the bow, below the waterline had caused some flooding and the loss of precious fuel oil.

The crew of the Bismarck, young and old alike, for the first time felt the fear and the adrenaline rush of combat on the foam capped sea. Many thought they were under the protection of Poseidon himself, invincible, until the Swordfish struck. These fragile, slow moving aircraft swarmed around Bismarck like bees around a brown bear. Their dauntless crews braving intense anti aircraft fire while they flew their planes from a past era in slow, straight lines towards the target. Then, with a well placed torpedo, a shudder ran through the ship and in an instant its fate was sealed.

The brave aviators knew they’d got in one good hit but had no idea of its effects. Time melted away the feeling of invincibility from Bismarck’s crew. Crippled by the torpedo blast that knocked the rudder into a screw the ship was unable to steer a straight course and so escape to the coast of France or even the protection of German aircraft was impossibility. The wind and sea were working against Bismarck, constantly turning her bow back towards her pursuers. And so on this overcast, cold morning the men in the Bismarck each contemplated his fate. Thoughts turned inward to home, loved ones, memories long forgot. Some still had false hopes of a miraculous victory for the German ship, some thought of the Hood and what her crew must have gone through.

The Project

As the sun rose in the East behind leaden skies the English ships seemed to rise in the West. The new battleship King George the Fifth and the older Rodney were closing in. Soon their 14 and 16 inch shells would turn the Bismarck into a floating funeral pyre. With it the pride of Germany and any thoughts of the German Navy venturing into the Atlantic were slipping beneath the waves to a watery grave 2,616 fathoms below the sea’s surface. Melville couldn’t have written a better sea tale. It’s a story of honor, courage, fate and luck that played out in such a way as to be the most famous legend of the life and death of a ship of war ever to be told.

And so it was with this story in the back of my mind that I first saw that White Ensign Models was about to release an “Ultimate Bismarck” photo etched detail set and I knew I had to build another. After some correspondence with John Snyder at WEM I had 3 sets of brass details made to enhance Tamiya’s 1/350 scale kit. These sets included Bismarck/Tirpitz Photo etched deck plate details; Bismarck/Tirpitz Photo etched metal details, and Kriegsmarine AA weapons photo etched metal detail set. The deck set consists of 35 brass parts designed to lay over the kits decks and provide wood relief, steel grating and no slip tread plate. Also included are brass replacements for AA position splinter shielding. The detail set consists of 132 different types of parts (many replicated 2+ times) for detailing or replacing existing kit parts. The final set, Kriegsmarine AA set consists of brass parts to replace the kits light AA weapons-2cm C38 quad flakvierling, 2cm C 38 single, 3.7cm double flak and 2cm C 30 single guns.

Construction begins with preparing the hull for mounting. The center of the hull is determined by measuring from the most extreme points fore and aft. In this case the bow and stern at the deck level. Once the center of the hull is marked on the keel I measured 4” fore and aft and drilled holes to accept the bolts that will go through the base, pedestals and finally the hull itself. Inside the hull the nuts for the bolts are secured with craft (Popsicle) sticks cut to hold the nut in place and glued down with epoxy.

In this way it’s easy to mount the hull on a “work board” for construction then easily transfer it to the finished base once the majority of the construction is finished. Following the kits instructions the propellers and rudder are attached and the deck pieces are installed. Tamiya’s 3 piece decks are often the cause of concern for modelers because of their desire to save the raised planking detail. I simply squared the mating surfaces with a file and used liquid cement to join the deck sections. I then removed the seams with 400 grit sandpaper and installed the deck to the hull. The numerous holes for cable reels and 20cm guns were filled and the deck was airbrushed with a base “deck color” of my own mix. This was then sealed with Future acrylic floor finish to prevent further layers of paint from lifting the base color.

The WEM (White Ensign Models) brass replacement decks for the 01 level were then added. The mounting posts for the kit’s 10.5cm AA guns need to be thinned slightly to allow the brass tread plate (fore batteries) and wood decking (rear batteries) to slip in place easily. The fore and aft AA gun splinter shielding and main gun bore cleaning tube lockers must be removed and set aside for re-attachment later. While brass replacements for the splinter shields are provided I decided to remove them with a chisel blade in my X-acto knife and re-use them. Once I was satisfied with the fit of the brass deck pieces I secured them in place with superglue. If you are more careful than I you will at this time also remove some plastic from where the catapult is located in preparation for the brass parts. I overlooked this in WEM’s instructions and had to deal with it later. In anticipation of installing the other brass decks the major superstructures were then assembled up to the point where they would be joined one atop the other. The WEM replacement decks fit very well needing only a small amount of filing here and there to drop in place . Where needed splinter shielding was carefully removed then replaced on top of the brass decks filling needed only where the bridge shielding meets the brass deck.

All of the wood decks were then painted the wood base color and sealed with Future and the steel decks were painted in dark gray. For photographic purposes I assembled the funned and attached the P.E (photo etched) searchlight supports, grills, cranes and funnel cap. Usually I would paint these parts before construction but I wanted a photo that would show the P.E. parts to better effect. This technique was also used in showing the bulkhead details-portholes and vents that are used to dress the kits’s smooth 01 level bulkheads.With the Future acting as a sealer I mixed tints from the base color using lighter and darker colors and with a small brush applied the planking details with short strokes. Using first the darker tint and streaking all the wood decks then getting progressively lighter until 4 or 5 different shades were applied. A very subtle difference in color is what you’re looking for. Too much variation will result in a deck that looks striped and not like wood planking.


The foredeck and quarterdeck Swastika background bands were masked off and painted medium gray (some folks say they were red) and Swastikas in white circles were used from my aircraft decal spares file. This is a lot easier than trying to mask and paint the circle and Swastika.

At this time the hull was mounted to a work board and the lower hull was masked off and painted Testors Model Master II British Crimson. The upper hull was masked and painted sea gray. The bow and stern were masked and painted European gray then the black boot topping was masked and painted. Then the lower edge of the boot topping was left masked and the black and white Baltic stripes were masked and painted on the hull. After masking off the entire boot topping the hull was over sprayed with sea gray creating the over painted effect on the bow, Baltic stripes and stern. Finally the false bow and stern waves were masked and painted.

Many photographs from many sources were used to determine the location of bulkhead details for the 01 level. Once these details were added the bulkheads were hand painted in RLM 65. The steel decks were painted in Euro 1 Gray and the catapult was added. As I mentioned before I didn’t follow the WEM instructions for this assembly and the reason is this. Usually when I begin a project I check the P.E. instructions against the kit’s-making notes of modifications and replacement parts on the kit’s instructions to aid in assembly. I’ve had this Bismarck kit for 7 years (It was my son’s since he was 5 years old) and the instructions and a few parts were missing when I began. When I saw the error I made with the catapult I decided the only thing I cold do would be to trim it to fit. I already had the decks finished and I wasn’t about to ruin all that work. The WEM instructions have you trim the deck 2.5mm deep to accept the P.E. catapult; I simply trimmed 2.5mm from the catapults sides to fit on the deck. The remaining superstructure levels had their bulkheads hand painted and were fitted with railings and set aside for final assembly later.

The forward hangers were assembled using WEM’s instructions. The only problem I found is with the hanger doors. The inner, lower corner of each door is angled. This angle, on the real Bismarck, fit the curve of the lower funnel. Tamiya’s kit’s funnel goes straight into the deck. Once all the P.E. details are added this becomes an almost invisible discrepancy. In order to use WEM’s P.E. boat racks for the aft hanger the kit’s hanger needs to be modified with a notch cut out of the roof/side and plastic sheet used to close it off. To me it was a simple matter of marking the cuts with a straight edge and X-Acto and sawing them through with a hobby saw. Once that was done the space was boxed in with sheet plastic then trimmed and sanded to shape. Details for the aft hanger include doors and aft boat platforms.

At this time each superstructure level was detailed with the appropriate railing then joined together to form the forward and aft superstructure assemblies. While they dried I built the armament. The main and secondary guns were assembled following the kit instructions with the exception that the guns were glued in place not allowed to elevate. WEM provides P.E. vision blocks and rangefinder covers. The blast bags were made up from acrylic gel medium sculpted to shape with a toothpick and fine brush. Once dry the main turrets were painted RLM 65 with charcoal gray barrel “root” sections and black gray tops and barrel ends. The blast bags were hand painted white. The secondary guns were painted the same with the exception that the entire barrels were painted black gray. These two black colors were mixed using black and white paints. The AA guns are from WEM’s Kriegsmarine AA weapons P.E. set. The quad 2cm flakvierling were the most difficult to assemble, each consisting of 7 tiny P.E. parts they tested my patients and building ability but I won in the end and they look 100% better than the kit’s offerings.

With the major sub assemblies finished it’s time to put it all together. The superstructures are added deck by deck. Then the armaments. The boats are painted and detailed with WEM parts and added to the various locations. The masts are built and P.E. footropes and braces are added before they’re glued in place. Now the shop is mounted to the display base with the bolts inserted from underneath, through the pedestals and screwed into the hull. Using as many photos as I could find, the rigging was done with carbon fiber. These fibers are .004 thick, dark gray in color and are straight and will not bend. Each place is measured and each piece is cut to fit, the ends dipped in glue (white or CA) and set in place. The final task is setting the main deck railing in place and giving the entire ship a final spray of Testors Dull coat. It will still be a couple of weeks till I’m sure it’s finished. I’ll set it aside for a while then go back and have a fresh look at it and things will catch my eye. A bit of rigging may need trimming. Some brass is shining through and needs to be touched up. Then I’ll take it out on a sunny day and see more things that need touching up. But all in all I’m very happy with the WEM details and the results.


  • Warship Pictoral #16 Kriegsmarine Bismarck by Steve Wiper
  • The Discovery of the Bismarck by Robert Ballard
  • Bismarck and Tirpitz website
  • Bismarck website