Wednesday, January 27, 2021

HMS Speedy, 14 Gun Brig - Vanguard Models 1:64 - PART ONE

 After finishing the 1:48 longboat model from Model Shipways, I wanted to step up to a larger and more complex project, but it needed to be something I would have room for in a small apartment. After considering a number of options, I settled on Vanguard Models' 1:64 HMS Speedy. I'd read reviews of the kit, all of which praised the overall design, and of course the Speedy is a very attractive vessel in its own right. It is also a famous one, having made a name for itself under several extremely enterprising commanders at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. Its last and most famous commander, Thomas Cochrane, was one of the boldest, most successful and most colorful naval officers of his age, and his exploits in the Speedy provided the entire plot for Patrick O'Bryan's novel Master and Commander, the first of his long series of Aubrey/ Maturin stories. So there's a lot to like there! 

The kit parts consist of laser cut MDF and pear wood, photo etched brass, and resin castings. The quality of the parts is excellent, and the instructions and plans are extensive. This is a double planked model, the first layer being done in lime wood, and the second in pear. But more on that later. 

To start with, the mdf bulkheads and keel piece are assembled, building the skeleton of the model. I've used Elmers wood glue for this step, because it creates a strong bond, but gives you a little bit of working time. The laser cutting is well done, and the pieces fit together very neatly. 

Next, the lower deck pieces are put in place. The lower deck sits at the correct scale distance below the upper deck, so if you wanted to go the extra mile and create a detailed interior, it would make that easier to do. But that's a bit beyond me at this point. 

You can see a number of extra pieces that slot into place at the bow, to make it easier to anchor the planking around the tighter curves there. 

Then the deck supports are glued in place, running across and down the length of the hull. These pieces also help make sure the bulkheads are properly aligned. 

Here you can see the false upper deck in place. It is laser cut from some thin but very tough plywood. Eventually it will get covered with another layer of wood to replicate the deck planking. At the stern you can see the supports for the transom. 

And here is a shot of the transom pieces being clamped in place while the glue sets. 

At the bow the inner stem is glued in place. The slots in it will make it easier to anchor the first layer of planking. The sides of the bulkheads need to be fared, or beveled, to enable the planking to sit flush against them. This a time consuming process, but is essential to getting smooth curves in the hull. 

Next the gunport patterns are glued into place along the sides of the deck. These are thin plywood pieces, and were soaked in boiling water for a while to make them more pliable. Fitting them was definitely the most challenging step of the model so far, as they have to follow a complex curve. They didn't come out perfectly, but between sanding and later covering them in planking, inside and out, errors and imperfections hopefully will not be too visible. 

Here you can see all of the gunport patterns in place. The model is starting to take shape! Next up will be the beginning of the first planking layer. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

18th Century Longboat - Model Shipways 1:48 - Part 5 - Finished

Here, finally, are some views of the finished model. I have mounted it on steel rods set into holes drilled in the keel of the boat, and it sits on a cherry base. See the end of this post for information about where the base and a custom made display case came from. The 1/48 figures are white metal castings from Amati.

This kit was a tremendous amount of fun, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject. It's not a beginner build, despite its small size, but it's a great opportunity to learn wooden ship modeling techniques in a manageable project, and to really take your time to practice doing it right. (Or rather, if you're like me, to learn from your many mistakes!)

If anyone is ever looking for a custom-made display case, I can't recommend Michael Jekubik of Chameleon Woodcrafting highly enough. Mike does beautiful work, as seen in the case I had made for this model. You can see more of his work here:

Sunday, July 26, 2020

18th Century Longboat - Model Shipways 1:48 - Part 4

In the last post, I left off after adding most of the internal detail to the boat. Here we'll pick up by adding he bowsprit. The piece tapers toward its forward end, and is fixed in place by two brass pieces, painted black to look like iron. The oarlocks have also been added in. These are just thin metal rods glued into small holes and painted red.

You can see in this shot the traveler has been added to the stern of the boat - the black metal rod to  which the boom sheet will be attached.

Here is a shot of the mast, the boom and the gaff.

The rudder has some decorative elements on it, matching the friezes along the sides of the boat.

Here are some of the accessories that will sit inside the boat. A bucket (not included with the kit) a second handle for the windlass, the anchor (made of white metal) and the oars. The kit comes with 10 oars, but I'm only including four of them, so that they don't hide the interior details.

Here is a test mock-up of the boat sitting on a base, atop a couple of steel rods. The mast has been set in place but not glued. 

And here the mast has been glued in place, the boom is attached to it by a small metal hook in its end, and the rigging has been started. I've attached the shrouds and the boom halyard and sheet.

The kit comes with its own deadeyes and blocks, but I purchased new ones from Syren Ship Model Co. They are a nice upgrade in quality, and I think well worth the additional expense.

Next time, rather than go through the rigging process step by step, I'll post pictures of the finished model.

Monday, July 20, 2020

18th Century Longboat - Model Shipways 1:48 - Part 3

Moving right along with the longboat build, it's time to remove the inner bulkheads. These are laser cut in such a way that you just need to file off the connections at the top of the frame, and then carefully snap the remaining connection at the bottom middle. Then you can remove the bulkhead and sand the insides. It takes quite a lot of sanding actually, as the frames all need to be thinned out significantly, and the inside edges need to be faired as well. Here is a shot of the hull with the bulkheads removed and the sanding underway.

Next I added the caprails to the top edges of the hull. To make these, you trace the outline of the hull onto some thin basswood sheet to get the right curve, measure out a small distance for the other edge, cut and install. The rail is much too wide at that point, but then you sand it thinner. Note that the frames need to be thin enough not to extend beyond the inside edge of the caprail. I removed and scrapped my first rail because I had not made the frames thin enough.

Next I added the decorative friezes. These are printed on paper, sprayed with matte varnish, cut out and carefully glued in place. Then a thin wooden strip is glued along the bottom edge. You can see in this photo the waterline has been marked in pencil.

Here you can see the stern decoration, and the waterline has been painted white.

Flipping the boat over, we have another view of the decorative friezes and the painted waterline.

Next I painted the caprail and the inside of the top planks red.

Then I added the floor boards in the bottom of the boat.

Here I've added the stern and bow platforms.

After the platforms, it was time to add the thwarts, the windlass, the knees, and the eyebolts in the bottom of the boat. At this point the body of the boat is nearly finished, and next time I'll post pictures of the masts and other details.

Monday, July 13, 2020

18th Century Longboat - Model Shipways 1:48 - Part 2

Picking up where we left last time: all of the frames of the longboat were installed on the keel, and the skeleton was complete. After fairing was complete and the sides of the frames were properly shaped, it was time to begin the planking process.

To begin with, I returned the model to my improvised jig to hold it in position while I marked the position of the top planks. Viewed from the side, the plank will dip slightly in the middle, rising toward the bow and stern. I took measurements off the plans and made marks on each bulkhead as a guide for gluing on the planks.

The first planks to be installed are the uppermost two on each side. I immersed the planks in boiling water to make them pliable, bent them and clamped them on the hull while they dried. Then I attached them with superglue, being careful to be as neat as I could be with the glue, since the inside surface of the planks will also be visible. Many people will prefer slower curing wood glue, but for me superglue is ideal because I can apply it to a few bulkheads at a time, secure the plank, and then move on, without having to clamp the entire plank and wait for the glue to dry. But it's very much a question of personal preference.

Another view of those first two planks, giving a sense of the slight curve they follow. Note that the top of the upper plank is not even with the top of the bulkheads.

The next planks added are the bottom two on each side. These have to follow a more complex path, curving and twisting. They also have to be shaped more severely in the bow. After these are installed, I followed the instructions by alternating between adding upper and lower planks. The ones in the middle need to be shaped more, as the width is not consistent at each location. They are thinner in the bow and stern, fatter in the middle. Also all planks need to have their edges bevelled slightly to allow them to butt up against their neighbors tightly.

We're making progress!

An overhead shot of the hull as the planking nears completion.

Now all of the planks have been added, the little triangular stern filler piece has been added, and the excess length of the keel trimmed off. Overall, I made some errors with the planking, and it didn't all fit together as snugly as I might have wished. But I added a small amount of filler made from a mixture of white glue and sawdust in a couple places, and did a lot of sanding. I can live with the results. Also a lot of the outside of the hull will be covered by the paint of the waterline, so I will have opportunities to hide some of my mistakes.

And here is a top view of the finished planking.

Next it will be time to remove the inner bulkheads, do a great deal of sanding, and start in on the interior details. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

18th Century Longboat - Model Shipways 1:48 - Part 1

Recently I've been working on something a little larger than the 1:1200 ship models I usually build. Model Shipways' 18th Century Longboat is a 1:48 scale plank-on-frame model of the largest ship's boat that would have been carried on a ship of the line in the mid 1700s. It's a great little kit, with laser cut frames and planking in basswood, and various fittings, and I thought it might be interesting to show the steps of construction. It has been a long time since I attempted a model of this sort, and this was a fun foray back into this particular part of the hobby.

This shot is not my own, but shows the contents of the kit. You can see some of the laser cut basswood sheets, and two sheets of rolled up plans.

To begin with, the keel, false keel and stem are glued together - but first the edges of the false keel are sanded so that where it joins the keel there is a groove, into which the ends of the planks will run. (I actually stained these pieces before glueing them, but it was something of a moot point - only about an inch of them stem will be visible when everything is built and painted).

I built myself a crude little jig from some spare wood left over from the laser cut sheets, to help me hold the keel and align the bulkheads as they were glued on. They need to be properly squared against the keel, and the top edges all need to be level. Or at least as level as you can make them. If you mess that up, you just have to compensate with more sanding in later steps.

Here you can see all of the bulkheads have been added to the keel, and the skeleton of the boat, so to speak, is complete. You can see each bulkhead is numbered to make sure it goes in just the right spot.

A top view of the bulkheads.

I glued toothpicks onto the tops of the bulkheads to help keep them steady as I worked on the hull. They are relatively fragile, and can split easily. These bulkheads are laser-cut through most of their length, with the centers only attached on the bottom and the tops of the sides. That way once the model is planked you can remove the centers, leaving a hollow hull.

The bulkheads are all perpendicular to the keel, and the sides of the bulkheads are themselves squared. That means that those edges don't follow the intended contours of the finished hull, and they need to be sanded, or faired, to let the planks lie flat. A lot of sanding ensues.

Here is a close up showing the fairing process under way. you can see on the left of the pictures the edges of the bulkheads have started to take on the proper contours. On the right, the edges have not been touched yet and still show the charring of the laser cutting process.

And that's the first part. Next up, after the fairing is completed, it will be time to begin the planking.