Building A 15mm ACW Ironclad

Stephen is inspired by a piece of balsa…

I had a spare bit of balsa planking I’d used for a previous project where a piece had been cut out of it that left the remainder with a prow-like curve at one end.

I just happened to see it and then a thought popped into my head: ‘that looks like the prow of an ironclad.’

And that’s how this project came to be.

The first decision I had to make was size. It was going to be a gaming model not a scale model. Assuming that 15mm is 1/110 scale that would mean a scale model would need to be about 2 feet long.

That wouldn’t be practical since this would be used in big battle games and ground scale comes in to play.

But it had to ‘look right’ next to a 15mm figure, as if a crew could actually get in it. So it couldn’t be too small either.

The bit of balsa I had was 25cm long. I got out a 15mm figure, put it next to it and…it looked about right.

The starting point and tools.

So that’s the scale I went with – the gamer’s favourite ‘looks right’ scale.

This proved to be a simple model to make, though some processes were repetitive.

I used Wills Scenics embossed plasticard for the wooden decking. With that done I then sanded the sides to make sure it was all nice and smooth.

Hull planking added

Next came the superstructure. This was built in thick card and then clad in plasticard.

Superstructure added.

The plasticard was incised using a compass to represent the iron cladding. This got really dull! It was only after I had stuck it all together that I suddenly realised I had forgot to add any rivet details. I thought about doing it retroactively, but then I thought about the amount of rivets I would need to do and thought, ‘sod that – this is a gaming model.’

Broadside gunports and more tools.

The funnels were made from styrene tubing with a bit of styrene wrapped around the top for where the stabilising wires were attached. Guide holes were drilled and they were glued in place.

Funnels added

The wheelhouse went through two versions. Some pictures show it with sloped sides, some with slab sides. The first version I did was sloped. But when it was glued in place it gave the whole model a modern ‘sports boat’ look with all those slopes. It just didn’t look right. So I took that off and made a new, square, one. The rest of the hull furniture was made from bits of styrene and chain from an old necklace.

Second attempt at the wheelhouse and deck furniture added

Then on to the paintjob.

I got this wrong as well.

I’ll confess I don’t know too much about ACW river ironclads. I remember from ages ago seeing an ironclad game where the hulls had been painted silver (presumably to represent the iron). If I’m honest, that always seemed wrong to me, but I just respected other’s knowledge.

So I painted my model with metallic sides.

It just looked wrong and too shiny. I thought the matt varnish would dull it down, which it did. But it still looked wrong.

Time for a quick bit of research. Sure enough, my instincts were correct – they weren’t left bare metal! Black, dark grey, and light grey seem to have been the preferred colours. Even sky blue!

I prepared myself that I might have to do a re-paint.

Before that, though, I thought I’d do an experiment – an all over black wash. That seems to have worked and saved me a re-paint. It now has a darker finish, the black wash has taken off the metallic look but left it with just enough to suggest wear and tear.

The finished model

No re-paint needed.

On the river

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