Mewa (1935)

Completed in November 2010.
Primarily paper.
1/75th scale.

This will be a scratch-built model of the Mewa, a Polish WWII-era Jaskolka class minesweeper designed for coastal duties in the relatively shallow Baltic Sea. She was built in Gdynia, Poland in 1935 and was active in 1939 when the Nazis invaded. Sunk by bombers, she was later raised by the Germans and used by them as a patrol boat. After WWII, she was returned to the Poles, who used her for various purposes until being scrapped in 1981. The Mewa was steel-hulled, lightly armed, ran on diesel, and was quite small at just 185 tons. She was 147 feet long and 18 feet wide, which is pretty compact.

I will be modeling her in 1/75th scale (model railroad O/O scale), which means that the completed model of the Mewa will be a hair over 23 inches long and a tad under 3 inches wide. This is the perfect size for my kitchen table, my main work surface, and it fits nicely on top of my hutch, which is where I have to keep it so that the baby doesn't eat parts of it.

This is what she looked like in real life...

I made the hull out of single sheets of cardstock with some simple cardboard bulkheads. In retrospect I should have used several thicknesses (or posterboard?) but I think this will work. The hull is fairly typical, except that it curves upwards towards the bow, ending up about 50% higher at the bow than at the stern.

The stern was a bit more trouble, as it slopes down and then back, making an overhang of sorts (which was ideal for rolling mines off the stern). Some scissor cuts and some tape and glue and it looks fine.

The ship has 34 portholes (17 a side) and I made these the standard way, with 6mm jumprings set into holes made of two thicknesses of paper and some scotch tape for the glass look. I had to paint parts of the hull first, a dull Steel Gray. I also added a rubbing strake (bumper) along the side, made of three layers of 3mm cardstock glued together.

Along the edges of the deck is a line of railing stanchions, 56 in total, 28 on a side. As the deck is only one thickness of paper, I needed something thicker to stick the wire stanchions (eye pins) through. I cut up sections of egg carton and glued them to the bottom of the hull after marking where the stanchions will go. I haven't added the bottom yet, as I'm worried the stanchions will need to be glued from the bottom, but the sides of the hull need some strengthening. So I cut up a cardboard box and put strips along the sides, which worked wonders. There's still some curviness but that will hopefully be fixed when the bottom section is glued on. Instead of my normal round eye-pins, this time I used flat-head jewelry pins (just experimenting). They look a little tall, but they are spot-on to my line plans and when you put a 1/75th scale person next to them they look fine.

The actual railing is black linen string, which is notoriously difficult to work with unless you are making a straight line (which is what I'm doing here). A bit of glue on the ends and at points along the hull and it looks good.

On to the superstructure. This boat only has one large building on the deck, though it's a complicated one. I build the basic shape out of folded paper, cutting out doors with my Exacto knife. A separate rounded pilothouse goes on the front, with large windows around it (to be added later). On the roof of the structure I added some railings in the same way as on the deck, only shorter.

My next chore was to paint the top deck Coffee Latte. I couldn't find any sources to tell me what colors the Poles painted their metal walking surfaces on small ships, but on larger warships they were a dull tan (wood-like even though they were steel).

Added some deck bits next, including a breakwater, some gear boxes, four large bollards, and half a dozen assorted access hatches and such (hinges to be added later). Also added a large engine room skylight (blacked-in ports to be added later), which has two cradles as it also doubles as the mount for the main lifeboat.

The Mewa was lightly armed with a single 75mm cannon on the forecastle (which was really all a small boat like this needed). This I made out of assorted bits of paper, lollipop sticks, and metal wire, placed on a rounded paper base.

Back to the superstructure, I had to glue the doors shut as they hung open too wide (my bad measuring), which roughed up the appearance a bit (plans to smooth that out). Added a thin weather guard around the flying deck, plus black linen string railings back along the top of the structure. Painted it all a mixture of Steel Gray and Coffee Latte, and then glued on some split rings for the portholes along the side (had to wait for the paint to dry). Also put scotch tape inside the open windows to the pilothouse, giving it a nice sheen of glass. And because I'm impatient, I went ahead and glued everything I had down on the deck. Thankfully, everything fit well, no gaps or misalignments (this time...) and a few touch-ups of paint covered any stray glue marks.

As this ship ran on diesel, it didn't have a smokestack as much as an exhaust pipe. Up on the top rear of the superstructure I made an oval stack out of paper and fudged up some rain guards and vents for the top. A nice coat of black paint and it's done. Went back and added a steam whistle on the starboard side, though it may be too large for scale. Back on the forecastle I finished up the anchor assembly. The anchors themselves are just egg carton cut-outs painted Antique Gold, they are small enough that you don't notice how ugly they are. The capstan is rounded paper on a jewelry base with a black marker for the holes. The chains came from my stash (thanks, mom!) and were the correct size and shape.

Home stretch now, just doing final detail work. First up were the two lifeboats set amidships. These were made by folding paper around a egg carton frame, and painted Bark Brown and Flat White.

The smaller boat was lugged overboard by hand, apparently, but the larger boat was winched up and out by a boom arm crane that came off the back of the superstructure. Made with a lollipop stick and a metal wire hook, with a line running back to an eye-ring glued to the funnel. Then I made a windlass out of a paper tube and a small crane out of toothpicks and wire and placed them both astern. These were parts of the minesweeping gear (I'm probably not going to model the floats and drop-buoys). There were some assorted minesweeping-related rails and maybe another crane, but they weren't clear on my plans.

Back to the superstructure, I built the combination mast and searchlight platform. The mast is just a bamboo spear with a trimmed toothpick crossarm, and the searchlight is made of paper and sits on a cylindrical raised platform also made of rolled paper. Should have come up with a glass-like cover for the light, but I'm running out of time. On the flying bridge are some instruments for when the captain wanted to command from up there (when it was nasty out he'd retire to the similar controls in the enclosed pilothouse directly below the flying bridge). I made a binnacle, a repeating station, and a large t-shaped rangefinder all out of paper and some metal bits. Paint, paint, and more paint...

And lastly we have some crew. I am putting seven men aboard the Mewa, two officers and five ratings, scattering them around in various poses and locations. There is nothing that sets a scale more than human figures. Officers wear white pants and blue coats with white shirts and blue hats and black boots, while the ratings wear white pants and white shirts with blue hats and black boots.

And with that, this ship is done! I wanted to see how fast I could build her, and in the end it took me just four days from laying of the keel (so to speak) to the final detail. Also, I used existing stocks of materials, meaning I spent absolutely no new money on her, which is nice.

Below are the final photos of the Polish minesweeper Mewa from 1935...

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