Aurora Viking Ship

Gallery Article by Orlando Sucre on Oct 1 2011


Hello, fellow modelers and readers!

This time I want to share some photographs of my Viking Ship from the now extinct Aurora brand. I bought the kit when I was a teenager some 35 years ago, together with other kits of the same brand (several kits from Aurora have been recently re-issued by other companies.) The kit itself is very old: the instruction sheet had a copyright notice from 1956! As it has to be expected from such a vintage kit, no scale is indicated, as the kit was designed to fit inside its box (the scale is something between 1/72 and 1/48, comparing the kitís figures with that of other kits.) The kit isnít very detailed, and its accuracy is very questionable. For example, each oar is so thick that it would have been impossible for any man to handle and move it. Nevertheless, the model is an eye catcher, mostly because of its colorful sail, its dragon-adorned hull, its colorful shields and its many crew members.

The kit included decals for the shields and the sailís dragon, and a vinyl sail. When I began to build my Viking Ship (I donít remember how many years ago,) its decals were all cracked and thus unusable. I also never liked the look of the sail provided with the kit, with its almost orange bands. Therefore, I knew that I had to paint all the shields, and construct and paint the sail with the help of my wife. Although by that moment Iíd rarely seen a photo of one of the drakkar replicas shown at museums, I soon realized that Aurora's rendition of the Viking Ship is based more on assumptions and artistic license than on real facts. Therefore I decided to build a very colorful Viking Ship, worthy of a King, not an accurate replica. The painting of the kit was then crucial to achieve my goal. Every piece simulating wood (except for the oars, which I thought were subject to frequent replacement) should have a satin finish, as Iíve seen in many wooden replicas of sailing ships. The shield centers should have a gloss finish, although the metal parts shouldnít be very shiny.

Click on images below to see larger images

I built the kit following more or less the kitís instructions sheet. However, I made sure that almost everything was painted before gluing. The fit of the parts was terrible, I had to sand a lot, fill the seams and fill also many sink holes right on the stomach of the crew members! I began airbrushing the inside of the hull halves Hu 10 dark gloss brown, then the deck and mast parts were painted Hu110 matt wood, with accents in Hu 10. These pieces received a coat of satin varnish and then were glued together. I then scraped the portions of the deck were the crew members and some other pieces were going to be glued. I also drilled a hole for the rigging at two posts located at each side of the rear of the deck. I didnít try to fix the seam between the deck and the hull, because I didnít want to mar the paint job inside.

The next step was painting the outside of the hull halves, including the dragonís head and tail among other details, after correcting the seam that ran lengthwise across the hull. I used Hu 10 brown, greens Hu 2 and Hu 3, white Hu 34, black Hu 33 and signal red Hu 174, followed by a coat of satin varnish, and I later painted the golden accents with Hu 16 gold.

At this point came the first of the more time-consuming steps: painting the crew members and painting the shields. The crew men were first taped to a shoebox lid, and airbrushed with a mix of Hu 61 flesh and Hu 118 tan, because I wanted to give the crew menís skins a soft suntan look. Assuming that the clothes were made of leather, I hand painted them with several shades of brown (including Hu 62 leather, of course.) Assuming also that the crew men were all blondes, I painted the hair of some of them with several Humbrol yellows and light browns, and others (among them the captainís hair) with Hu 100 red-brown. The armor coats and the helmets were painted with Hu 56 aluminum, Hu 16 gold and Hu 54 brass, the horns were painted with Hu 41 ivory and all the boots were painted with Hu 10 brown. The captainís coat were painted black to distinguish him for the rest of the crew. I later painted a clear satin coat over all the ďleatherĒ parts (now I think it would have been better to leave them flat.) After all the crew men were fully painted, they were glued in their places.

I designed twelve shield faces, which were to be painted in pairs and located in the same order on the port and starboard edges of the hull. I first masked the outer ring of the shields and painted the centers in white, then I masked each design and airbrushed them with bright colors (Hu 69 yellow, Hu 174 red, Hu 14 french blue and Hu 2 emerald.) The black accents were done with drafting pens of various thickness filled with black china ink, and with the help of a ruler and a circles template. After the centers were done, they received a clear gloss coat; when they had dried, the centers were masked and the remainder of the shields were airbrushed with Humbrol Metal Cote Polished Aluminum. In short, I painted the shields in the same way as if I had bought aftermarket masks, but I made my own masks! When the shields were ready, they were glued on their pegs over the hull, overlapping them as itís indicated in the instructions, and making sure that their order were the same (from front to rear) at both sides of the hull.

The painting of the shipís base and name plate was also done carefully. I first airbrushed two white coats over the name plate (which included a raised two-headed dragon design,) then I hand painted the dragon with the same bright colors of the shields, but adding Hu 18 orange and Testors 1136 purple for the wings and Hu 64 light grey for the paws. Then I masked the dragon and airbrushed the base with Hu 62 matt leather, followed with a coat of varnish. I finally painted the raised letters with Hu 16 gold. It was important to have the base finished, because it helped to handle the ship better.

Then I came to paint the 27 oars (22 for the oarsmen plus 5 spares). I realized that I hadnít enough Hu 110 wood to paint them all, so I mixed this with other browns and painted the oars with three different shades of ďwood,Ē this added a touch of realism. I then located and glued each oar to one oarsmenís raised hand, trying to get the oars almost parallel to each other. In the end the oars are in slightly different angles and heights, but this add a touch of realism because the oars were handled by men, not by robots, so it was impossible to synchronize their movements perfectly. The remaining five oars were not glued to the corresponding support (whose rods where painted with Hu 53 gunmetal,) assuming that they simply laid over the support and could be taken when needed.

One of the most time-consuming step was the manufacture of the sail. My wife has very good sewing skills, so from the beginning the ship had to have a fabric sail. We first made three one-sided prototypes but werenít fully satisfied with them. The fourth prototype was a two-sided one, which allowed to hide the seams that join the two halves. Vertical seams were sewed to simulate fabric panes, these seams would be used later as guides for masking and painting the panes. When the sail was completely sewed, it was time to paint it.

I used the kitís decal for the sailís dragon (or perhaps a marine serpent) to make a cardboard template to paint mine. With the template I draw the dragon in the middle of the sail, and then I hand painted the green portion with dark green paint for fabric. Also with the template I made a frisket mask and placed it over the dragon, and masked with scotch magic tape the panes that were to remain in ďsailĒ color. Then I airbrushed the red panes with scarlet paint for fabric (first on the front side of the sail, then on the back.) When these were dry I removed all the masks and it was time to paint the details. I painted the eye with yellow and black center, and finally all the edges of the dragon where highlighted with Hu 16 gold paint applied with a fine brush. My wife and I are very satisfied of the result.

The ship was finished by sewing the sail to its mast and by adding the remainder of the rigging, which included attaching the anchor (which was previously painted with Humbrol Metal Cote Steel and then polished) to a long cord attached to the shipís anchor post. For all the rigging I used the same high quality thread that my wife uses for cross-stitching, treated with bees wax.

Well, after a very long time of building this kit, including very long interruptions, I finished it and I am very proud to show these photographs. I included several photos of the ship without the sail and the rigging (in which the crew members can be appreciated better,) of the sail alone and one of the box artwork. Iíd like to acknowledge the important contribution of my wife Omaira, without her sewing skills and her loving support I couldnít finish this project the way I finally did. I dedicate this model to my daughter EstefanŪa on her birthday, she also helped with her strong encouragement. Greetings from Caracas , Venezuela .

Orlando Sucre

Click on images below to see larger images



Photos and text © by Orlando Sucre