I have recently begun construction of the Artesania Latina kit, Bluenose II. This is my review of this kit. I purchased the kit from Tower Hobbies, a favorite vendor of mine with prices often lower than other vendors. I can also recommend Hobbylinc.com as another excellent vendor to purchase the kit from. I paid $135.99 for the kit from Tower Hobbies.
As you can see, the kit comes packaged in a very nice looking box. The photos shown on the box are professionally done and show off some of the details of the finished model.
Upon opening the box, I found everything sealed in shrink wrap clear cellophane - a nice feature to keep everything in tact during shipping so that the kit arrives in pristine condition. All too often I've received kits that just have the parts loosely placed inside the box, and after vigorous shaking while in transit, I've find parts broken such as fittings, or even breaks in some of the more delicate stripwood.
Even after removing the initial shrink wrap, I found that the individual part categories were also shrink wrapped. Stripwood, laser cut parts, loose wooden parts, fittings, sails, and instruction booklets were all individually shrink wrapped. I applaud AL for taking such extreme measures in packing this kit, and in all likelihood, all of their kits.
Carefully I removed each category of parts from its shrink wrap. First we have the bundle of stripwood. The bundle is held together by elastic bands. Within the bundle the different types of stripwood were bundled together with elastic bands. This made it easy to find which stripwoods were to be used in the various construction steps.
Next, I'll examine the laser cut parts in the kit. Again, all but two of these parts were wrapped together in shrink wrapped clear cellophane. Here is a photo of the different laser cut parts.
This sheet contains all of the bulkheads, center keel, and other miscellaneous parts associated with the hull assembly. These were cut out of a thick, semi-soft plywood. The sheet showed no signs of warpage and the laser cutting was well done with thin gaps and small notches.
Each part was easily identified by its part number etched into the part. The center keel even had part numbers etched at the slots where matching parts by number such as bulkheads and mast parts are to be glued.
This photo shows the two sub-decks and other parts associated with various pieces of deck furniture. These are cut out of thin plywood. Again, part numbers are etched into the sheets for easy identification.
Various other billets in walnut and what looks like cherry are also included, and like the others, part numbers are etched into the billets. One exception is the cherry billet which has the mounting stand cut out. This billet is solid cherry.
Even though all parts were easy to identify because the part numbers were etched into the billet, a parts identification sheet was included in the kit - another nice touch of a quality kit.
A complete set of sewn sails are also included and packaged in a clear plastic bag.
All of the kits fittings came packed in very nice clear plastic boxes. The boxes were also sealed in shrink wrapped clear cellophane. After removing the shrink wrap, I found that the boxes also had several pieces of clear scotch tape sealing the lid shut. Clearly AL went to great lengths to protect the delicate fittings and to prevent them from coming loose during shipment.
One box contained all of the rigging material such as rigging line, chainplates, blocks, deadeyes, and miscellaneous brass parts and wire. The other box contained some photoetched parts, brass wire, metal castings,, some laser cut parts, hinges for the rudder, propellers with shafts, some wooden barrels, small brass nails, and a few other detailed parts associated with the deck furniture. The metal castings were of nice quality as well.
The kit came with two colored booklets. One covered the construction of the hull and all of the associated deck details. The second one covered all of the masting and rigging with scale photos of the masts and their associated details. (The second booklet's cover is identical to the first but the booklet is in a 1:1 scale, thus it is much larger than the first).
At first glance, I thought that the instruction booklet was excellent and wondered if a practicum for this kit was even warranted. But upon closer examination, I found a number of issues that would really confuse the modeler, especially if he or she were a first time model ship builder. For example, the very first construction step instructs the builder to "fit and glue the frames 2 to 15 onto the corresponding ratlines on the vertical keel 1, ensuring that the upper part of the same is perfectly plumb and making a 90 degree angle to it. Finally glue the stays 16 and 17 into their corresponding grooves 16 and 17 on the ship's masts."
Wait! What? Glue the frames to the corresponding ratlines? Glue the stays into their corresponding grooves... on the ship's masts? That makes no sense at all. Clearly in the translation from Spanish to English, something got lost along the way.
Of course the photos help immensely, but the text description is a train wreck. Probably most builders would be able to figure out from the photos what they are suppose to do, but they are going to be so confused by the terminology used in the kit's instructions that when they try to build another kit by another manufacturer, they're really going to get confused..
This confusing terminology continues throughout the instruction booklet. In addition to the misleading, confusing terminology used in the instruction booklet, I did not agree with the sequence of construction in some of the steps. I also did not agree with some of the methods of construction. It became apparent to me that although a wonderful attempt was made to provide clear and concise instructions on how to build the model, albeit a far better attempt than in the Model Shipways kit of the Bluenose, there was need for improvement via a detailed practicum especially for a new model ship builder building his or her very first model ship kit.
In summary, I can say that given the price of the kit and the quality of the parts, this is a very nice kit. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this kit an 8, mostly because of the confusing instructions. The completed model is a nice representation of the original ship, Bluenose II. There are some noted differences such as the lack of paint on the lower hull, the lack of stain and painting of certain pieces of deck furniture and the deck itself. This is where I believe, my practicum will vastly help the modeler vastly improve the appearance of his model.
As in most model ship kits I build, I have done some research on the Bluenose II and plan to make a number of enhancements to the model as I build it. These will be easy enhancements that even a beginner will be able to do.
If you should have any questions about the kit, please be sure to ask by using the comment feature of this Blog.
Update July 23, 2017
After building this kit for a new practicum I would like to give you an update on my review. I think the quality of the kit for the price is very good. There were some parts that came in the fittings box such as blocks, rigging line, stanchions, and wire that were insufficient in quantity. This created a few problems for me.
For example, I did not have sufficient twisted wire for some of the standing rigging on the bowsprit. I dropped one of the stanchions on the floor and never did find it so I had to purchase more. There was not sufficient rigging line in some of the dimensions. There were just enough blocks to rig the ship and it would have been nice if there had been some smaller blocks for some of the rigging.
The kit's photo essay instruction books were nice but I found quite a few mistakes and contradictions in the photos. There were a number of steps that were confusing and often the text that accompanied the photos used totally incorrect terminology. For example, the text called the bulkheads the ratlines and the center keel was called the masts. This could really confuse a new modeler.
So although one might think that the photo essays would make it easy to build the model, but even with over 30 years of model shipbuilding experience, I had difficulties understanding the photos, especially when it came to the masting and rigging.
I also found a number of the masting and rigging lines that were totally incorrect. Where possible I fixed these problems and pointed them out in my practicum. Overall, I thought the kit was a decent kit for the price but was lacking in instructional text details as so many model ship kits are. A more experienced modeler should be able to build this kit without help, but a new modeler will have much difficulty understanding the instructions by themselves.