This is the very first ship model I have built since the 1/400 Aurora model I had in the 80s. ICM has very kindly sent me an edition of the Markgraf to review, which is supposed to represent the ship in its 1915 form. I have reviewed two PE sets for this model, and this is the review of the base model itself. My focus primarily will be the model itself from a model builder’s point of view with regards to building and detail, and not necessarily historical accuracy, although I did my best to find enough information to make (semi)informed statements.
The ICM SMS Markgraf is a reissue of an earlier Margraf kit; this edition, as mentioned, should represent the ship in its 1915 state. I tried to find references online about the ship, but it is quite difficult. I could not lay my hands on the few -and mostly German language- books on the subject, so the accuracy of the model -general shape, size, dimensions, and the 1915 modifications- are hard to judge.
I would like to start this review that a few months back I could have bought and used the original ship as a reference, but in an unforgivable lapse of judgement I failed to act. https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-48684400
What I managed to find about the 1915 state of the ship:
The forward superstructures deck was probably lined with linoleum, not planked; the model provides a planked deck. Not sure how accurate this information is; I kept the wooden planking. The German version of linoleum was dark red, and I have read that it was laid in strips, edged in brass- I do not know how to replicate it in this scale, so I just painted everything dark red.
If built in 1915 configuration, she should have anti-torpedo nets installed -the structure to hold them is provided with the model. These were abandoned after Jutland. (Rolled up torpedo nets can be simulated with shoelaces quite convincingly: http://images.vfl.ru/ii/1360604370/74b0c22a/1736176.jpg
; I did not find any non-waterline unrolled nets available.)
There were railings on most of the superstructure; some of these had been changed to splinter shields at the 1917 overhaul and modernization. The kit features splinter shields all over the superstructure.
During the 1917 modernization the 88mm guns were removed from the forecastle, and their place was made into crew accommodations.
The wings from the bridges were removed at this stage, and the roof of turret 4 got a rangefinder installed (which is also provided by ICM). So if you want to build the model in a 1915 configuration, the wings to the bridge should be added, and the range finder should be left out. (The necessary part is provided with the model.)
The König -after which the class had been named- had a mast change in 1917, but I am not sure about Markgraf.
The turrets should not have identification circles (ICM provides you the decals) in 1915 as these were added onto the forward and aft turrets in October 1917. (ICM provides the decals.) The reason for this was that the black paint on the top of the masts, funnels and turret tops as identification was not enough, and after some problems during the occupation of Oesel and Dagö islands with accurate identification, it was decided to use white circles on the turrets.
All in all, several versions can be built from the model, but you really have to do a lot of research if you really want to make it accurate.
The exact colors of WWI German battleships does not seem to be a settled matter; however this is the most accepted version I could find about how the Markgraf was painted: http://i971.photobucket.com/albums/ae191/ebergerud/color2.jpg
There are two combinations mentioned: RAL 7000/RAL 7001 or RAL 7035/RAL 7038. However the RAL system did not come into being untile 1927… One combination of colors is available from Revell RAL 7000 and RAL 7001 (Nos. 57 and 374) in enamel form -however I do not use enamel paints, so I tried to replicate the color the best as I could. (Unfortunately on the funnel the light grey color became noticably darker after a dark wash was applied.)
Interestingly I’ve read a tantalizing passage somewhere that the rear funnel of the High Seas units were usually painted red secretly during fleet actions to act as recognition devices, and were repainted on return voyage. If true this could make a pretty spectacular model with a red funnel.
The model comes in a huge box with a typical ICM dramatic boxart showing the ship in action. The cover hides a cardboard box with its own lid, which is a nice feature; it provides rigidity to the setup which is solely needed due to its size.
Opening the box we find a surprisingly few number of sprues, safely bagged. (At least, coming from armor models I found the number of parts very low.) The packaging is very nice; I had no damage to parts, and no parts were disconnected from their sprues.
The instructions are simple, and easy to follow; something we are used to from ICM. (The only thing I was not sure about the assembly of the framework for the anti-torpedo nets. It would be nice to show a complete assembly both in a rolled-up, and in an engaged position.) The instructions manual has 35 steps showing the assembly of the model, plus a nice “centerfold” with a great set of drawings showing the ship for painting reference. The rigging is not very well explained; we only get two pictures of how it should look like. Obviously if you elect to install it you probably know what you are doing. (Some pointers on how to attach the rigging and what to use for rigging would be very useful, although, admittedly, this information can be found in books and on the internet.) I personally decided not to install the rigging for now. I will attempt to install some rigging later on, but for the sake of timely publication of this review, I decided not to wait with the review until then... There are some helpful drawings on how to add rigging to the main cranes and the boarding ladders, though. The only issue is that there are a lot of optional parts, but no clear instructions which ones should be used for alternate versions of the ship. (Essentially the instructions only “allow” you to build one specific state of the ship but you get the parts for other periods as well.) There was a slight difference between how the ship was set up before going into action, and this would be helpful if the instructions were clear on these.
If you want to depict the ship in action or during exercise, you will have to put the crane booms on the deck (they were folded down), and also lose the small boats. There were two reasons for it: they would interfere with the guns, and they also would be damaged when/if the ship was hit.
The hull is provided as one piece which is really impressive. It is BIG. (See photo with the pen for a reference. I did not have a banana at hand.) There is a little flash to be removed from the bottom, but the complex shape is very well represented. The surface detail -this will be a recurring motif in this review- is, well, outstanding: the hull plating, the portholes, etc are well represented. The waterline is marked with very delicate lines; in fact they are so delicate I had trouble finding them once the model was primed with a dark primer…
We get the two main decks as separate pieces with delicate patterns representing the wooden planking, coal chutes, skylights, and so on; unfortunately the anchor chains are moulded on as detail. (They are quite shallow, and it is probably best to replace them with actual chain, or braided wire -in this scale even the PE replacements are not convincing. Removing the chain pattern is a bit of a pain, though.)
The moulding, in general, is quite clean, and there is very little flash. The mould lines do need to be removed from most parts, and they can be quite prominent on the smaller, thinner parts due to the proportion of the mould line to the thickness of the plastic part in question.
The moulded on ladders look acceptable, and the rivets are perfectly in-scale as far as I can determine looking at photos -this also means a lot of the detail is simply not visible unless you really look close to the model. And there IS a lot of detail moulded on - a lot of it I only noticed once I took a look at the photos I took with a macro lens… All in all, it is very impressive I have to say. One thing I will say: the very fine lines make it very difficult to apply a pinwash… (First world problems, I know.)
The screws are very nicely done, their shape is very good. After some polishing off the flash they are perfect - there is simply no need for aftermarket.
The masts are very delicate; if you do want to install rigging, you probably should switch the thinner parts to brass or copper ones. There is a metal replacement main mast available for the König; I am not sure if it is appropriate for the Markgraf as well. (Most of the scarce information available online is about the sister-ship, not the Markgraf.)
The guns are very nicely detailed, and the gun barrels are perfectly usable if you do not wish to buy aftermarket replacements (again, coming from armor models it is quite a nice surprise). The gun turrets are somewhat loose in their sockets, so I ended up glueing them in. Even the smaller guns and the searchlights can be positioned in any way you wish to; the detail is quite impressive. There are no blast bags, but they were not always installed, so you may opt not to add any.
The boats and boat cradles are really nicely done; considering their size, the amount of detail is impressive; they are quite delicate little parts.
The coal chutes and deck lights are represented with the same circle on the deck. The chutes were brass with wooden cover (https://karopka.ru/bitrix/components/bitrix/forum.interface/show_file.php?fid=563505
), so if you essentially paint a brass ring, it should be fine. I am not sure how the lights should be painted.
The skylights are well represented, but would be greatly improved using PE covers. (Some aftermarket companies provide them with their König sets.)
There are no torpedo tube doors on the hull; if you want to show them, you will have to get a PE set.
The inclined ladders are somewhat of a weak point of the kit; the plastic does not allow for such a fine detail. These are best switched to PE if possible.
The bow crests are provided as decals, however, the crest is not that of Markgraf; not to mention during the war the crests were either not installed, or they were removed/overpainted to make identification difficult. They do add some color, though, should you decide to install them. Talking about decals: even though the ship did not have the round identification markings on its turrets in1915, if you decide to install them, the decals may be a bit too stiff to settle well on the ample number of rivets, without some serious decal softening/setting solutions used. Painting them on with masks would probably be a better option.
I decided to use some aftermarket with the model, but I tried to keep as much as possible of the original parts, since I was building it for a review. (This was one of the reasons I kept the splinter shields and the 88mm guns in place, even though these features represent a mishmash of historical periods. If you build the model in the 1915 setup, then you have to change the splinter shields to railings all over the superstructure, and not use the identification markings on the turret; post-modernization you have to omit the 88 guns, and keep the splinter shields only on the front superstructure… After Jutland (which happened before the modernization) you should not install the anti-torpedo netting… and these are just the main issues I found.)
The fit is generally good: the decks and the hull slotted together relatively nicely, although there were some small gaps left where the deck and the hull sides meet. The superstructure is great, the only real headache was the shutters on the forecastle. The plastic parts were difficult to position accurately, and they look kind of wonky even with my best efforts. I have read on forums that some people had trouble fitting the deck and turret D, but I found no such issue.
The changes I made was to install the railings, add PE detail to the boats, the skylight covers, the cranes, inclined ladders and ladders, and add a fine chain for the anchors.
I also realized that my photo setup is way too small for a 1/350 ship… I tried to take some photos with the best lighting I could, and also outside with natural light.
Overall this is a really impressive model. A beginner modeller should be able to build a presentable ship without any real issues in a relatively short amount of time, and the more experienced modellers should be able to build a real gem with all the bells and whistles added. At the minimum a set of PE railings should be added (and it would be nice if it was included with the model) to really make the model stand out; however, depending on budget, time and skill, a more extensive PE set, metal barrels, rigging and wooden decks can be added (although the wooden decks are not necessary).
König reference book:
Die Linienschiffe der Nassau- bis König-Klasse, Eine Bild- und Plandokumentation by Gerhard Koop, Klaus-Peter Schmolke
It contains a lot of information, plans, which may come very useful, especially for the rigging.
Konig drawings (they are useful for Markgraf, too)