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Sunken F6F Hellcat Bikini Atolls Marshall Islands

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One of many Grumman F6F Hellcat’s that fell off the deck of the U.S.S Saratoga Bikini Atolls Marshall Islands 1946 after nuclear bomb tests sleeps on the ocean floor at 54 meters.


Operation Crossroads began with the first blast (Test Able), an air burst on 1 July 1946. Saratoga survived the explosion with only minor damage, including the ignition of the teak of her flight deck. A skeleton crew boarded Saratoga the following day to prepare her for the next test on 25 July. The ship was sunk by Test Baker, an underwater blast which was detonated under LSM-60 400 yards (370 m) from the carrier. The force of the explosion lifted the vessel out of the water, knocked everything off her flight deck and knocked most of her funnel onto the flight deck. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 August 1946.


Model construction 

I am going to attempt to graph the shell of a Hasegawa 1/48 F6F over the photoetch frame of the Jasmine Models F6F. The shell will be thinned through and weathered to mimic the decades salt water corrosion. Ill do a coral growth effect and several layers of paint effects over the exposed airframe to simulate the wreck.



I have updated this post ill appologize its been a few months and I changed direction from an F4U Corsair to the Hellcat primarily because no detailed airframe exists in 1/48th for the Corsair. Here is the start of construction on the Hellcat the Jasmine kit is a work of art. If your used to handling PE its not that difficult of a kit. My only criticisms is the instructions which sometimes are not clear.


Start is the cockpit assembly.



Onto fuselage construction about 20 hours.







Almost all the components assembled I need to leave them separated to grapgh the shell onto the frame. I spent a few hours planning this phase and how the aircraft will sit embedded in the ocean floor.


Here are parts ill graph onto the frame then corrode and whether.











Here is the start of the graphing processes. From the inside I dremmel,sand and shape the model shell checking the fit as I progress. When the shell is ready I adhere it to the frame then with a drill working from the inside out continue to thin the plastic randomly until it opens between the frame members.









These parts need to be primed then weathered ill do the same process on all parts. I am hoping that it all comes together as its a submerged wreck being flawless in the finish isnt the goal, acheiving a realistic scene is my goal. I am having so much fun challenging my model skills on this build.


Ill post more soon on the acryilc deep sea pour effect.


Thanks for looking 





Edited by Night Owl Models
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Quite a ambitious project and historically interesting. I’m looking forward to your progress and thank you for bringing this story to light. 


Best of luck and take care,


Mr. Happy



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  • 2 weeks later...

Did some more resin work this week. I received the new resin specifically made for deep pour applications up to 6" so I got right to work. The resin is redily available through Amazon in several sizes, my plan is to conduct several trials to duplicate the Pacific water color and how this resin acts.



I also decided to make a new section of the diorama base with a wing from a spare parts box of 1/48 Hasegawa kits. Using the Hasegawa plastic with Vallejo paints and washes is important as the F6F kit is Hasagawa. My concern is any softening and leaching of color into the resin during the curing process from the thermal heat.


Here is the method I came up with to make the corroded and coral growth effect.


Florist foam with wing embedded. You can smoth the foam with your finger of very fine sanding pad.





White tacky glue randomly tacked on the wing.



Fine turf sprinkled on then let dry.



Next it was onto cutting foilage pieces to mimic coral growth.



I used fast drying glue to get the coral pieces into place.



So here is the piece I sprayed it with Vallejo primer gray then used Dark, Medium and light gray washes to add variation. 




I came a cross a good tip to protect the paint and washes from leaching into the resin. Ill apply a light coat of clear and let it dry hard. Once its dry and cured then ill do the pour over it and it should be protected.



So here we are a few days later after the resin has dried. Ready to do the main pour over the test piece. 





First task was to do a mix 2:1 ratio and make some color test pours in small cups.



The back row was resin tinted with alcohol based ink made for resin. I was surprised that the colors came out so green as they came out more blue when I used a different brand of resin.


The front row is resin tinted with pigment powder, again I was glad I did trials as you can see some are ultra clear others were cloudy.




I decided on a pigment powder by Gambin "Ultramarine blue" it only takes a very small amout to get a deep rich blue I tried two samples with the Ultramarine one with half the amount of powder.






FAIL #1- I tried to use this mould made of HDPE that screws together so you can demould it after curing. I poured the acrylic in and it started leaking out everywhere. Luckily I had a back up plan to trial using an clear acrylic box 4"x4"x3" pour the tinted resin in and let it bond to the acrylic box no need to demould.



Here is the pour into the acrylic box, you'll notice the sediment in the bottom of the bucket. Love that blue better than I expected.


Resin mixing process

  1. Mix 2 parts resin to 1 part hardner
  2. Stir not whip for 5 min
  3. Room temp shoud be aroung 22 degrees
  4. Add small amoung of pigment powder you can always add more if not tinted enough
  5. Stir until disolved as possible I found that there were small chunks that would not disolve
  6. Set timer for 15 min let stand this allows any air bubbles to escape and sediment to settle to the bottom
  7. Torch off air bubbles after time has elapsed
  8. Slowly pour resin into mould-make sure your mould is level
  9. let stand another 15 min and torch off any air bubbles.
  10. Open time for resin was a few hours so no need to rush
  11. Cover project to protect from dust
  12. Let cure for 3-4 days


Torching off airbubbles after 15 min wait time.



I gotta say I am pretty happy with how this turned out ill take some better photos once its cured. One tip I forgot to mention lol😆 foam floates so I had to use some hot glue to keep the test piece from floating out of the resin.


Thanks for watching. Next I am onto finding an acylic container big enough for the corsair I am thinking of going round not square. An important part of this trial is seeing that the resin stays bonded to the container and air pockets dont form after the resin cures it may shrink and pull away from the sides...hope not! ill kmow in a few days.

Edited by Night Owl Models
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  • Night Owl Models changed the title to Sunken F6F Hellcat Bikini Atolls Marshall Islands

When you first mentioned your intentions of this build in the Fire Scout build thread, I was intrigued and hoped you would do a WIP. Your thinking, vision and build skills are an inspiration to others. However I’m not sure on the colour of Blue you’ve gone with for the water, it might be my screen but it looks too Blue, and I think something with a Greenish tint would suit better. Looking forward to the next update 👍🏻

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Hey I am looking at reducing the tint for the photo or a work on an acrylic cover. My fear is that all the detail will be lost in the depth of the pour. Up next the test pour it's not as dark as the photo's depict.


Anyways in the meantime I am back to working getting the aircraft skin over the frame. I liken this process to working with a thin potato chip. To thin the shell of the Hellcat down to scale thickness is delicate work. Sometimes the torque of the dremmel bit wants to tear out or grab the plastic. So I had to back the plastic with tape.


I need to do some smaller areas of corrosion to give the proper scale. Also add some material to the main frame members. 

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Made some major progress as I am on summer leave. After alot of cutting, fitting more cutting and fitting I slowly adapted the shell to the frame. 



I referenced many photos of aircraft that have been submerged for decades paying attention to the corrosion patterns.



Working with many drill bits and dremmel bits I chipped away at the shell. Looking at it from a distance and close up so that the realism won't get lost. I want viewers to see the frame details but in a realistic way not too much not too little.


All parts primer out and ready for the next phase adding the coral growth and undewater weathering.







What you don't see is the colossal mess from all the cutting and sanding lol.


I have the gray floral foam on its way. That will be the ocean floor I'll embed the Hellcat into. The aircraft will sit with its starboard wing in the sand and fuselage partially sunk that will take some work. 

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Moving forward a bit the gray dry foam arrived. I got right in without showing the obvious I cut the blocks down to 1" thickness then glued them together. 


After it dried I cut the foam to a 12" diameter circle. Then it was onto plotting the planes position.




I want the port wing up and the starboard wing barried in the silt and sand. So methodically digging out the base careful not to go too deep.





Here I am positionining and sinking in the engine



Once everything was in position I secured the frame and poured glue to fill gaps and anchor the frame to the foam.

The green patched are the same process I mentioned in earlier post on how I will weather the frame.



Working on the coral growth effect and sculpting the sea bed coral shelves.





Much, much more to do to complete the scene then I will spray everything a light shade of gray. Final step will be the washes before going into the pour.


Thanks for all the encouragement and nice comments very appreciated. Criticism is also welcome helps me improve my skills.

Edited by Night Owl Models
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WOW, this is so cool on so many levels ! It's one thing to have a vision but, taking that vision from your head to becoming a reality is a whole other deal. You seem to have that concept mastered. I applaud you for challenging yourself with each new build you tackle, pushing yourself outside your boundaries. It's a joy to watch your works in progress, thanks for sharing.


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No, He's not doing that. Nope. Never. No way... But He IS doing that. That is just awesome. The skeleton model itself is a feat. But skinning it with plastic model is insane. Lovelly work!


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Thanks for all the really nice comments makes all the hours worthwhile and keeps the fire lit to keep going and keep coming up with new ideas.


So I am done the base all that is left is to purchase the acrylic container and set up to the pour day. These photos I just used a blue filter to show how the final scene will look when its in the "light blue" acrylic ocean water.

Untitled photo


Untitled photo

The diorama was painted with several layers of primer gray and them three tints of wash light, med and dark gray.



I am happy with the way the starboard wing turned out I really wanted it to blend into the sea floor without looking out of place.



My plan next is to secure the diorama in the container and then do the acrylic pour, to add a sense of realism and just push this project even further over the edge I am sourcing a 3D printing company to make me two 1/48 scale modern divers. One diver will have a light shining on the wreck. I did a trial where used I reduced a light beam from a LED mini Maglite and pushed it on my trial pour I was inspired by the realistic beam effect. The second diver will just be above the Hellcat. And yes I have a method I trialed to simulate bubbles from the breathing regulators. I spent a few evenings searching the net for 1/48 scale divers never found anything, fall back is doing a scratch build on two figures.


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