Sunday, February 14, 2016

Shapeways redux - a review of Brown Water Navy Miniatures model of USS Eastport

3-D printing for gaming really shines in the space defined by the  intersection of the ability to produce a 'one-off' model (generally referred to as rapid prototyping), and an acceptable price point that satisfies a low demand). In today's environment 3D printing is outside the mainstream traditional methods optimized to  produce many figures at a lower cost. 

Designers (what we used to refer to as sculptors) are using 3D printing vendors (what were traditionally referred to as 'casters') such as Shapeways to bring to life a variety of niche products that the conventional hobby industry understandably are reluctant to undertake.

Which brings us to today's subject - the model of USS Eastport produced by the Shapeways vendor Brown Water Navy Miniatures.  Eastport had a short relatively undistinguished career on the western rivers before striking a torpedo and being abandoned and burned by the Union Navy. Eastport is notable for being an ironclad project started by the Confederacy, captured and completed by the Union Navy.

In 1/600 scale no manufacturer has modeled the Eastport. Gamers were left to their own devices - simply substituting a model of a similar vessel such as Choctaw or crafting their own conversion. But now there are two models on the market. One from Infernal Machines and one from Brown Water Navy Miniatures.  This review focuses on the Brown Water Navy Miniatures model.  Prompted by  post from TMP member Hussar123 extolling the virtues of this model, I purchased a copy to add to my mighty squadron. 

USS Eastport in broadside. The model has nice curves on both bow and stern.

This shot shows off the decking on all the surfaces.

Eastport was not a small ship, coming in at 280 feet in length. This is comparable to USS Chotaw and USS Lafayette both of which have a similar configuration. Checking the models dimensions against the data on file we find that it's not quite hitting the scale marks.

Actual (in feet)
Model (in cm)
Variance model to actual
Hull Width
Width with wheels
* Measurement data from Silverstone, Paul H. 2001. Civil War Navies 1855-1883. Annapolis, Naval Institute Press.

The model is a little short and a little wide, but the overall width comes in almost on the money.  Is it noticible? In my This is actually a very nice looking model! The proportions look quite believable  and it makes an attractive looking ship.

The above scale critique is not meant as a condemnation of the model. You can find similar variances with other models from other ranges if you look. Instead this is offered as a somewhat objective standard so you can compare how it fits against other models available in 1/600 scale. 

The stacks and wheelhouses both look believable for the scale. Gunports are modeled as a raise square cover. Which works for the period. The only thing that looks a little off is the deck 'etching'. Etching is in quotes as it's not really etched, it's part of the printing process and it's likely that this is more a limitation of the printers than an artistics failing.If you don't like the decking Brown Water Navy Miniatures
 offers the model in a plain casting with no deck etching.
If you put it side by side with a model from Thoroughbred, Bay Area Yards or Peter Pig, the deck planks will look noticeably wider, but if you apply the standard gaming 'three foot rule', the model should look fine.

Stacks are a little shorter and thicker than conventional modeling, but the results are passable for the game table! If you look closely, you can see the deck planks and compare with Thoroughbred Models miniature in the top of the image.

USS Choctaw from Thoroughbred Models in background. Eastport should be about a quarter inch longer than the Choctaw model, but it's actually about a half inch shorter.

This didn't work so well with the black on white, but you can see the comparison between the two models.
The Verdict
I'm happy with this model. It should make a fine addition to my ACW naval collection. I recommend it to anyone looking for an Eastport model in 1/600.

Update:  I traded e-mail with Brown Water Navy Miniatures regarding the scaling issue. They agree and will look into it when they get some time.

Check back for future installments to see how the Eastport paints up and looks when ready for the game table!  

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