JerseyCity Frankie

Whaling Barque Wanderer by JerseyCity Frankie - Restoration 1/72 scale, Completing a model begun 80 years ago

I was asked to complete a model that had been started in the 1930's. It had been passed down from a grandfather and was stored safely in an attic with its original plans. The person who started the model, who I think of as "Gramps" carved and painted the solid hull and got as far as making some of the spars. My task was to complete the model as Gramps would have. 

The model was built to the plans published in 1932 by Popular Science magazine presented by Captain E Armitage McCann.  The illustrated instructions ran in three issues of the magazine and  a set of plans could be mail ordered. McCann was a Brooklynite who contributed a lot to the hobby, publishing many illustrated how-to boks in the 20's, many of them still in print.

The subject is the American whaling barque Wanderer, the last American whaler to set out on a whaling voyage.  The actual ship is very well documented with many photos online. Famously she DID leave the harbor to go whaling in 1924, but she set her anchor right off shore anticipating departure the next day. That night she went up on the ricks, wrecked in a storm. 

Below are photos of the model as delivered and the documentation. A photo of the spars Gramps made and at the bottom a shot of the model after cleaning and with a coat of isolating varnish.

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I have mentioned this varnish before, I use it whenever I do a restoration. Its an "isolating varnish" which means it is designed to protect the thing that is being restored from steps taken by the restorer from being irreversible. How often have you read a story about the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and art restorers are busy scraping off restorations that were put on 75 or 100 years ago before they can get to work?  This varnish ensures that whatever you paint over it can be easily removed.


Its kinda thick and you thin it with thinner and paint it on. Its smells awful and is toxic but dries in a day and from that point on I feel very secure using whatever materials I will employ on the model, since according to the can this product can be removed with alcohol. I routinely use water based acrylic paint over this stuff and it sticks and stays on just fine.

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Hi Frankie

 

This looks interesting and challenging. Do you ever find it hard to balance the old (80 years) with the new when you're doing this sort of work?

 

Cheers

 

Patrick

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Hi Patrick thanks for visiting and I am glad you asked that question because I was just about to go into the issue of the "patina of age". I am using basswood and brass and bamboo skewers and whatever wood those dowels I find are made of. All the stuff I have is new and looks new. So I paint everything to look old. There is a school of thought that says you should make whatever you add to the model look slightly different than the rest of the model so future generations will know the subsequent work YOU put into the model is not original. You see this in art museums. For instance am ancient  fresco from pompeii has huge chunks missing out of it, The team that restores it puts in new plaster where the chunks are missing and paints it a SIMILAR BUT A FEW DEGREES OF TONE OFF from the original. This is to show that what they have done is not part of the ancient material but the restoration allows viewers to see what the completed work of art would have looked like.

I don't want to make my additions to the model obvious. I want them to blend right in and be indistinguishable from the original work. And the materials I have are fresh and new and look it. So I use paint to age the model parts.

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The 80 year old paint on the model is chipped and worn in places. I want the paint I put on the pieces I build to look chipped and worn too. I am using a piece of scrap pine here with acrylic artist paint and a watercolor painting product called Masking Fluid.

The first thing I do is I have to make the wood that will be exposed under the "chips" look old, which means staining it a dark brown. I mix some brown acrylic paint and make it very watery so when I brush it on it penetrates the wood fibers, then I rub off some of the paint (before it can dry) exposing the grain a bit and the result is the same as if I had used wood stain.

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Edited by JerseyCity Frankie

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Hi Frankie

 

Thanks for explaining your preferred approach to restoration work.  To blend or not to blend is certainly a vexed question for sure, and probably one where there is no right or wrong way of doing it.  I suppose, like you said, as long as you're consistent in what you're doing, then that's fine.  I for one, would err on the same side as you, because I prefer to see everything blended in, rather than standing out.

 

Good luck with this restoration and I'll be following with great interest.

 

Cheers

 

Patrick

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On my scrap piece of wood you can now see the stain I put on. Now to replicate the chipped paint. Watercolor painters use Masking Fluid to block watercolor paint from touching their watercolor paintings. Watercolor paint is like a stain that sinks into the absorbent paper so once the paint touches the paper it can never be removed, if they want an area to remain white in the final painting they have to either avoid getting any paint or water on that section OR they can paint it with this removable hydrophobic Masking Fluid. Which to me looks smells and behaves EXACTLY like liquid latex rubber. Its cream colored and gloppy and I apply it with a toothpick since I am sure it would ruin any brush. It dries in a snap in thick rubbery ridges.

I randomly daub short stretches of the mask onto the part of the wood that will be "pretending" to be areas exposed when the paint chipped of. With my acrylic paint I am going to paint over the entire surface, Masking Fluid and all. And when its dry I am going to rub off the masking fluid which will pop right of exposing the wood underneath.

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The paint color  I am replicating was probably white or very light grey. Its hard to tell since its 80 years old and now its mottled. So the color I am going to use is NOT going to be one solid color. I'm going to mix three versions of the original color, one like I imagine the paint looked like when it was fresh ( lets call it "New" and two that are variations on the same color if it was dirty and grimy. I paint the whole piece of scrap I am using in "New" and I don't care if it dries or not, then I daub over that with the two other colors. These two I scumble and smear around but I DONT cover all of the "New" color underneath. THen I rub this a bit with a rag to blend in some of the two top coats but not enough to blend them together into one distinct color.  This gives me the mottled appearance of the aged paint.

Take a look at the three pats of colors in the photo. I start with Titanium White but I will never use this or any other paint on the model at full strength. What I will have is 80 or 95% Titanium White with adulterating colors that dull the brilliant white down. The "dirt" colors I mix into the white are Burnt Umber ( a dark brown color which at full strength is almost black) and Raw Sienna, which is the color of toffy. Using black to make grey is acceptable but I find that using the above colors gives it a more realistic aged color while using black doesn't fool the eye as well, it just looks like grey paint out of the can.

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I force this dry using a hair dryer, this takes fifteen minutes out of the process. Or you could just wait for it to dry. ANyway now you just rub the surface with your thumb and the dried raised ridges of the Masking Fluid break off easily and roll up under your thumb like rubber cement would, exposing the wood underneath in sharp demarcation.  So as you can see wherever you paint the masking fluid, your going to have a chip. You can make the chips as obnoxious or as subtle as you like.

Speaking of rubber cement, I have not tried it but I would not be at all surprised if that wouldn't work in the place of the masking fluid.

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Edited by JerseyCity Frankie

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Hi Frankie

 

Your techniques are really interesting, especially how to balance conservation against artistic interpretation.  

 

I wonder if it's worth suggesting to the Admin/Moderator Team that a new sub-forum be set up specifically to discuss and show case various restoration techniques and tips?  I'm sure there'd be many members who'd find such a forum invaluable as useful 'go-to' area.

 

Just a thought.  I'm following along no matter what, though.

 

Cheers

 

Patrick

Edited by Omega1234
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Hi Patrick I asked a question earlier "where to post photos of cleaning and restoration" and the answer was Here in Scratch Building. Which this issue fits under I believe.

Anyway back to chipped paint and the whaleship Wanderer:

Gramps had carved and painted four of the six whaleboats the plans call for, so I had to make two new ones to match the old ones. Gramps was way better at whittling than I am but can you tell which two were the new ones? The second photo is of some of the "dressed" whaleboats- All of these are Gramp's, mine are going to be upended on the skids aboard.

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Ok. I give up. I've tried and I've tried, but I still can't tell which of the ship's boats are yours! You're obviously very skilled at making new things old. Will you put me out of my misery....please???

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Its the two on the right! The whaleboats Gramps made had at leat two different versions of the white paint on them though, so even together they were not all identical. Also eyebolts or something must have been installed then lost on some of them, there were glue-break-away marks if you look.

Anyway, the boats were among the many subassemblies I had to make. 

Some model builders like to create the subassemblies as they go, I tend to make them all at once as one of the initial stages after I have the hull. Then these parts live in a flip lid plastic partitioned box awaiting the time they all go on nearly at once. That part is always exciting. I'm not putting the whaleboats on until the end because I know I will just break them off as I work on the rigging.

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Here are some subassemblies. An eagle as a figurhead.  There were no bits or windlass so I made those and stained them with acrylic and varnished them. I didn't want to scour the internet looking for a little bell so I made one: Brass rod shaped then a single brass wire loop to act as the flare at the base of the bell. A brass wire eye.

The hatch. A pair of anchors too but I can't find the photo will put it up later.

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Edited by JerseyCity Frankie

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I completed the work on the Wanderer and here are photos of the finished model. to photograph a model I have a big sheet of grey paper I hang as a backdrop. I use a regular old digital camera, a two year old Sony "Cyber Shot" which I attach to a piece of furniture so that it will not shake. When I trigger the shutter I set the camera's Two Second Delay feature so that the pressure of my finger squeezing the shutter does not blur the image. I DO NOT EVER USE A FLASH! I set the model on a stand inches from a window on a bright day, but NOT in direct sunlight. Opposite the window on the other side of the model I have a floor lamp with the lampshade removed. This gives a more yellow light coming in from the left and it works against the cooler bluish daylight coming in from the right and the two together remove shadows to allow all details to show up. Flourescent  light ruins all the colors.


None of this is rocket science but I believe it is essential to put time and effort into photographing your model. One has only to glance casually at the Completed Models section of MSW to see EXCELLENT models photographed poorly. The biggest sin is a busy background that takes attention away from the model, particularly the rigging which can not be seen against a livingrooms contents. Photograph ONLY the model. Hang any solid color blanket or piece of fabric behind the model. I can't stress that enough. A distant second sin is to use the flash on your camera, which washes out everything and gives your model a Deer In The Headlights flat and featureless look.


 

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Consider that of all the people that are going to see your model, MOST of them are only going to know the model through the photos you put up. Twenty or thirty people may see the actual model itself? But hundreds and perhaps thousands will see it via photos on the internet.  If you put up a blurry or badly composed photo of your model, its going to look bad regardless of how much work you put into the model or its level of detail or overall aesthetic appeal. NONE of that will come through in a bad photo. If you spent an entire year (or more) bringing your masterpiece to completion, why not take an extra hour to set up and photograph it properly, rather than taking three casual snapshots?

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I followed the plans which dated from the 1930's and sometimes I disagreed with how things were placed, some of the rigging was odd and other parts of the rigging were not addressed at all. There was no belaying plan and running rigging disappeared into the tops or against the mast never to reappear in other views. The block and deadeye sizes were prescribed in the text and I think a lot of that is over scale.

Chain was indicated in some places in the rig and I have to say that working with the chain was a lot of fun. It brings some unique texture to the model.

I had the masts that "Gramps" had made along with three or four yards. Gramps had scored the masts with horizontal grooves into which he was going to fix the yards and so I stuck with the locations he had chosen but some of that was off.

If it was my model to do my way I would have made a whale out of sculpy to go alongside.

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Frankie, Mystic Seaport Museum does have the original plans available - but there four large sheets and they want $50 per sheet.

But they do also have a really good photo database, where I found hundreds of labelled Wanderer photos - some detailed enough to see the deckwork, and equipment. Some very good shots of the crew, as well.

I have a copy of the plans you used, though they are bad photo-copies. I'm doing and upgrade of the Aurora 1/87 Plastic Kit, and if that goes well, I may try to do it in wood. Model Expo has the Morgan in kit form, and they are fairly close in design.

Loved your photos! And was very pleased to see someone had built/restored the PopSci design, which I am familiar with.

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Frankie,

 

Its delightful to see a model of Wanderer made from those early Popular Science plans.  This was the model that was my first introduction to ship modeling and an early inspiration.  My uncle built the model in the 1930's and it eventually ended up stored in a workshop on a separate property that my grandfather used when he was living with us.  The model was placed on a shelf over a workbench and I would climb up to examine it when I was about 10 years old.  It was covered with dust and in some need of repair.  It was eventually stolen, but he had kept the whaleboats and he built it again after retirement in the 1970's.  He passed away some years ago but all his surviving models  are still stored in a large case in his home - Wanderer, Constitution, Bounty, Sovereign of the Seas, Flying Cloud, Victory - all the usual suspects.  Your posting brings back memories.

 

Ed

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