by: Dominick Soldano [ ]
IntroductionThey say, “You can take the boy out of New York, but you can never take New York out of the boy”. I can tell you from personal experience that truer words were never spoken. Even though I am 32 years gone from the city of my birth, there are some things I’ll always long for; a Rueben sandwich at the Stage Deli, the bright lights of Broadway, eating a Sabrett hot dog purchased from a pushcart under a yellow and blue umbrella, and the iconic view of Lady Liberty from Battery Park on the lower tip of Manhattan.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the People of the United States, is actually titled “Liberty Enlightening the World” and was intended to mark the centennial anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was conceived in France between 1865 and 1870 as a joint effort between France and the United States where France would supply the statue and the American People would supply the pedestal.
French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned in 1875 to create the statue. He quickly hired Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who would later design and build the Eiffel Tower, to design the critical steel framework that would hold the copper plates in perfect alignment. Because of funding issues in both countries, the statue and pedestal were not completed until 1886. President Grover Cleveland dedicated it on October 28.
The actual statue stands 151 feet 1 inch (46 meters) from the base to the torch and 305 feet 1 inch (93 meters) from the ground to the torch. It is comprised of 350 individual copper pieces with over 1350 iron bars used in the framing. It was shipped to New York from France aboard the ship “Isere” in 214 crates and assembled just like a very large model kit.
What’s in the BoxThe kit, part of Italeri’s new “World Architecture” series, comes in a beautifully rendered, end opening box featuring a headshot of Lady Liberty herself along with a picture of the model and the reference/instruction manual on the front. Photos of the completed model, along with color call outs adorn the back.
At 17cm tall and 15cm across at the widest part of the base (approximately 1/523 scale), Italeri’s undertaking is quite a bit more modest than the original consisting of only 12 total parts designed to snap together (I’m not having any of that on this build) rather than requiring the prototype’s steel skeleton.
Parts come on 2 tan plastic sprues each containing 5 parts that assemble to form the base and pedestal, and 1 blue-green vinyl sprue containing the lady herself and her crown. Since the model is molded in appropriate colors it can build into an attractive display piece without painting (I ‘m not having any of that either) or weathering (or that – mine’s glued, painted, and weathered).
Also in the box is a very well done full-color information booklet that gives the history of the statue, some reference photos (though no color photos of the pedestal so I’ve included a few in this review), assembly instructions, and tips for painting the model.
Examining the sprues shows that Italeri has chosen to depict the statue post the 1980s restoration (the flame is molded as a single smooth piece rather than as the copper framework with glass panes of the original). In my youth I was fortunate enough to be able to climb the stairs that ran up the arm to the torch platform and I remember vividly the stunningly blue-green verdigris that covered the entire sculpture. It also appears that Italeri has chosen to model the base pre-restoration (without the stairs at the front and back which are prominent in my reference photos). The model includes the visitor center and museum, which wrap around the base. These were not part of the original pedestal and were added after Congress appropriated funds for them in 1956.
The plastic is of good quality. The molding on the pedestal and base parts is very fine, clearly depicts the masonry work, and looks like it will take a wash beautifully.
Unfortunately, the molding on the statue, which really should be the star of the kit, doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the molding on the other parts. Lady liberty lacks the crispness and detail found in the pedestal parts. There is a very prominent mismatched mold line running along the sides of the statue, so much so, that it appears the artist who sculpted the front half mold didn’t talk to the artist who sculpted the back half mold. The ribbon on the right side of her head is also poorly sculpted (probably because of the difficulties of achieving the required level of detail in 360 degrees with two-part mold technology). A close examination of the face reveals that both it and the nose are narrower than the prototype which rumor has it, was sculpted based on Bartholdi’s own mother. In addition, there are three very prominent ejector pin marks on the back of the statue, two on the statue’s base (fairly easy to correct) and one on the back of the tablet. Of course if you don’t plan on allowing her to be viewed from the back, then it wont be an issue.
Interesting to note, while the instructions, and actual kit place the flag correctly at the front left corner atop the visitors center, the box art shows the flag incorrectly located at the back right corner of the statue.
Let’s Get BuildingSince the parts are relatively large, and few in number, I started by removing all of the parts from the sprues with a diagonal cutter and then cleaned up any attachment points and mold lines by scraping with a sharp hobby knife and rubbing with sanding sticks.
Tip: I saved the sprues so that I could test any solvent based glues, fillers, or paints I wanted to use on the plastic and vinyl before applying it to the actual kit parts. Some plastics are extremely sensitive to certain solvents and it’s much better to melt some scrap sprue than a very visible kit part.
Next, I gave all of the parts a bath, in a stoppered sink full of warm soapy water, followed by scrubbing with an old toothbrush to remove any left over mold release agent so the primer would have a better surface to grip to. After the scrub down the parts got a rinse in clean water and were set on paper towels to dry.
I decided to attack the build by completing separate subassemblies so that I could prime, paint, and weather each independently: the base (which was originally the structure of Fort Wood), the very bottom of the pedestal (the visitor’s center and museum), and the very top of the pedestal were all treated independently up through painting. The pedestal, and the statue were each assembled, filled, primed, and painted as subassemblies. Once completed and weathered I mated the parts into a final product.
Let’s look at the build step-by-step.
After test-fitting the parts, I assembled the pedestal using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. The fit of the pedestal parts was pretty good with a few small gaps here and there on the corners. Using rubber bands to clamp the parts together and working my way carefully down each join minimized these gaps. I then applied Mr. Dissolved Putty to any remaining small gaps using a micro brush for precise application and to minimize any sanding and subsequent loss of detail.
The statue posed a bigger problem and to address the mismatch in the mold seam I spent over an hour and a half carving and reshaping along the seam. There was a weird gap at the back of the crown where her hair bun is located. I used the Mr. Dissolved Putty, dropped in with a toothpick and allowed it self-level to address this. I used the same method to deal with the ejector pin marks. I completely carved off the ribbon on the right side of her head and sculpted my own from some two-part Milliput putty. The resulting ribbon is now thin and flowing and shows the prototype gap between the ribbon and the neck - a great improvement over the original heavy-handed sculpt (though certainly not perfect – this was my first sculpting attempt, and hey, I’m no Bartholdi).
Of course, most of this is unnecessary if you are simply snapping it together to put on a shelf. Out of the box the kit will create a presentable model of the famous landmark – albeit a bit bland. However, I wanted to take mine a step further (alright, maybe a few steps further – I tend to get carried away) and paint and weather her to match the icon I remember from my youth. I’ve included a photo to show what the statue looks like when assembled (without the flag) at this point.
Priming and Basic PaintingNext, I primed the kit with Testor’s Gray Lacquer Primer (tested on those saved sprues first of course). I like to use solvent-based primers because I find they grip much better to the bare plastic and provide a very smooth surface for paint to adhere to, especially on vinyl.
Once primed, I gave the model 24 hours to cure before painting. Then using my reference photos instead of the painting guide in the instruction book, I painted the base colors using a combination of Vallejo Model Air acrylics, airbrushed onto the larger components, and Vallejo Model Color, brush painted onto the details as follows.
The top of the base, visitor’s center, museum, and pedestal were all painted Vallejo Model Air RLM76 Light Blue Gray, which was slightly lighter than, but very close to, the primer color. I then masked off the walkway and stippled it using Vallejo Model Color Dark Sea Gray to match the mottled gray walkway in the prototype photos.
Next I masked off all of the gray top areas and airbrushed the base and pedestal sides Vallejo Model Air Camo Light Brown cut with a little Model Color Off White in an 5 to 1 ratio. The walls of the visitor’s center and museum appear lighter than the pedestal in the reference photos and Model Color Iraqi Sand looked like a good match so into the airbrush and onto those parts it went.
The overall statue was airbrushed a mix of Vallejo Model Color Deep Sky Blue, Model Air Pale Green, and Model Color Off White in a 5 to 4 to 1 ratio. The flame was painted Vallejo Model Color Gold.
I let the paint cure for 24 hours and then moved on to shading and weathering.
Shading and WeatheringI started by giving all of the base pieces and the pedestal a thinned sepia wash. Then I dry-brushed the parts with increasingly lighter shades of a Camo Light Brown lightened with Iraqi Sand.
For the statue, I used a thinned green wash followed by a highly thinned wash of sepia. Then I dry-brushed progressively lighter shades of the Blue-Green mixture that I had used for the base coat.
Final AssemblyI glued all of the components together using CA and let the entire piece cure overnight. The next morning I gave it protective coat of Testor’s Dullcoat. When that was dry I touched up and brightened the flame with a fresh coat of Gold.
The kit offers two options for the flag; you can either paint it, which was fairly easy since Italeri molded the stripes as raised elements (although the number of stripes on the flag is not correct – I count ten rather than the correct thirteen). Or, you can cut the molded flag from the pole and use a very nice printed version provided in the instruction manual. I opted for the painted version.
I primed the flag using Tamiya Fine White Primer then painted the red stripes with Model Color Flat Red. This left the remaining stripes the bright white of the Tamiya primer. I blocked in the blue field using Model Color Deep Prussian Blue and painted the flagpole Vallejo Model Air Aluminum. Some white applied in small dots with a very fine brush represent the stars.
With the flag glued in place the model made it’s way to a place of honor on my office shelf. Despite my frustration with the poor molding on the statue this was a fun build and I’m very pleased with the end result.