Hi Dr Doom,
This may sound odd to you, but this is only the second time I have used PE. Also the Lindberg Fletcher that I’m building is the first time I have done this much scratch building on any kit in my life, and I have been building models since I was six years old.
I was a machinist for many years though I no longer work in the trade. I have also helped my father remodel two of the three homes that he’s had, and in doing so I learned very valuable skills that I have put to use time and time again. Over the years I have had many hobbies such as: target shooting and reloading my own ammo, restoring cars, photography, and building models. About the only two I’m still doing is modeling and taking photos of what I’m building.
What ever I’m doing I apply all of my skills to the task at hand. Cutting the evergreen sheet plastic is the same as cutting sheet rock for walls in your house. I use a steel ruler from a combination square to cut against to score the plastic, then just fold it back just like sheet rock and it snaps off. Then I use a sanding block with 400 grit automotive wet dry sanding paper to smooth out the edge I cut. You will also notice a Vernier Caliper in some of my photos. I measure every thing I cut and if it’s too big or not parallel I will use the sanding block to bring it down to the size I need. The tools I use most for modeling are: a dremel, a pin vise to drill small holes and an assortment of X-acto knifes.
Like you have already mentioned, this is a good kit to start with. The most important thing to do is some research about the Fletcher Class Destroyer. You don’t have to buy any of the books that are for sale. I guarantee that many of the original WWII era photos you can find for free online are in the books you might purchase. I have found this to be true of the PT boats used by the US during WWII.
After looking at the real Fletcher take a look at the kit parts and you will see the need to do the same thing that I am doing. The kit screams for you to use Toms PE. Just look at the radar screens and the depth charge racks and you will see it for your self. Remember the kit is only plastic, if you make a mistake it’s easy enough to fix.
As for size of the PE or the kit, I think the bigger the model is the easier it is for me to build it. Although when building bigger kits you will find the need to add more detail to really make it look more realistic. There are many tools for bending PE. I use any thing that has a very square edge so the bend is square and not rounded. What ever I’m using to bend the PE on I hold it in a vise so I have both hands free to do the job. I find this is a big help.
Sorry this has been such a long answer to your short question, but it may help out many others that check out my build.