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Louie da fly

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  1. This is the very beginnings of a build log. Until I have finished renovating the house, there’s no chance of actually doing any building – no time, and no space available. But in my free moments I’ve been researching and drawing up plans for a Byzantine dromon of the 10th-11th century. The name dromon (Greek = “runner”) was originally applied to a class of fast Roman galleys with a single bank of oars developed around the 6th century AD. Over the centuries, as the Roman Empire shifted its emphasis to the East and gained a new capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and evolved into what we now know as Byzantium, the dromon changed as well, until by the 10th century AD it was a very different vessel with two banks of oars, lateen sails and armed with a devastating weapon, pyr thalassion – Greek fire. Greek fire is generally accepted as having been made of naphtha, a naturally occurring substance similar to petroleum. Contemporary descriptions led Prof. John Haldon to work out theoretical design using only technology known at the time, and then put it into practice, with spectacular results (see https://books.google.com.au/books?id=q0hMf5vu7kgC&pg=PA289&lpg=PA289&dq=%22Greek+fire%22+revisited:+recent+and+current+research%22&source=bl&ots=Kwp5Xa3U62&sig=tR81SBsNfAc_uDLyuXDxe9uPWKA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=bjAzVc61C8TNmwWvv4HICw&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=%22Greek%20fire%22%20revisited%3A%20recent%20and%20current%20research%22&f=false - page 292 onward). Greek fire was used effectively in a considerable number of battles, destroying threatening enemy fleets. I was reported to have burnt on the surface of the water (and in the reconstruction that’s just what it does!). The definitive source on the dromon is the excellent, thorough and painstakingly researched book Age of the Dromon (http://www.brill.com/age-dromon-0) by Professor John Pryor and Elizabeth M. Jeffreys, which draws together all the clues as to the nature of the vessel, from its early development to its apogee in the 10th and 11th century. The available information is rare, widely scattered and often difficult to interpret. At the time it was written no remains of any Byzantine war-galley had ever been discovered, let alone a dromon, contemporary descriptions were vague and patchy (and in the case of at least one writer of the time, often wrong). Contemporary illustrations are equally unsatisfying and the conclusions and resulting reconstruction reached are a considerable achievement. There have been a lot of theoretical reconstructions of dromons over the years, many of which can be seen if you do a google image search for “dromon”. Some of them are quite ludicrously wrong – often clumsy and far too heavy for a vessel propelled by muscle power. Prof Pryor’s reconstruction is the best and most believable I have seen, and is based firmly on the available evidence. It would also make a fast and effective warship, which most of the others wouldn’t. The picture that emerges is of a long narrow vessel with 100 oars arranged in two banks of 25 on each side. Instead of an outrigger, the sides were flared outwards at the gunwales to allow a good angle of attack for the upper oars. The vessel was fully decked and had two lateen rigged masts and dual side rudders. There was a fortified forecastle, below which was the siphon for Greek Fire. On larger dromons each gunwale was built up amidships and fortified with a wooden ‘castle’. In the centuries between ancient and mediaeval galleys, shipbuilding techniques had changed from frameless shell-construction (in which adjoining planks were fastened together by many small wooden tenons fixed into slots in the edges of each strake), to fully framed construction which was far stronger, and unable to be sunk by ramming. Rather than a ram, the late dromon had a long detachable ‘spur’, intended to break the enemy’s oars, to destroy its motive power and manoeuvrability. Instead of sinking opposing vessels, the dromon’s crew used projectile weapons – bows, slings, ballistas and even flung stones to cause casualties on the enemy’s decks until they could pull alongside, grapple and board. The oarsmen of the upper bank doubled as marines, leaving the lower bank to manoeuvre the ship into position. Tests on Olympias, a full-sized reconstruction of an ancient Greek trireme built in the 1980s, determined that such long, thin, light vessels were very subject to the vagaries of the weather and were of very limited stability. It was discovered that it was impossible to row effectively in any sort of sea – waves one metre high were the upper limit – and a galley faced by bad weather had little choice but to run for shelter. Galleys were also poor sailers and could really only sail effectively in a gentle breeze – a heel of more than 10 degrees would swamp the vessel and it would have been all but impossible to sail into the wind. A dromon’s storage ability was minimal and on long trips it would have to put into port on almost a daily basis to replenish stores, (particularly water, which oarsmen need to consume in great amounts to stay effective) A galley’s length is determined by the interscalmium – the distance between the rowing benches. Age of the Dromon estimated the interscalmium to be about 1.0 metre (3’3”). Any closer together and the oarsmen foul each other; any further apart and you’re adding dead weight for the oarsmen to pull along for no reason. A galley with 25 benches in each bank would be about 25 metres long, plus extra for the bow and stern. A dromon was incredibly long for its width – the reconstruction in Age of the Dromon is 31.25 metres (95 feet 4 inches) long and its maximum beam amidships only 4.46 metres (13 feet 7 inches). Just as the book was about to be published in 2006 an amazing discovery was made in Istanbul. During excavations for an underground railway in the Yenikapi district of the city’s southern edge, workmen stumbled upon the Harbour of Theodosius, silted up and buried centuries before. Under the mud were the remains of 37 Byzantine ships dating from the 5th century to the eleventh century AD. Most were merchant vessels, but at least 6 were war galleys – not dromons unfortunately, but galeai – smaller and lighter single banked galleys used for scouting, and from which our word galley comes. The Yenikapi ships confirmed the theoretical dimensions of Age of the Dromon’s reconstruction – of the two galleys which still had their upper works in reasonable condition, the interscalmium of one varied between 0.90 and 0.97 metres, and the other between 0.874 and 1.048 metres, averaging 0.96. The length and beam of these galleys was consistent with the theoretical reconstruction. These vessels were incredibly lightly built – the thickness of the planking varied from 20 to 30mm (3/4”-1 ¼”, almost unbelievable in a vessel of that length, and the frame timbers averaged 60mm (2 ¼ ”) square. The ships were prevented from hogging by stringers inside the hull and heavy wales. Presumably dromons were similarly constructed, with extra stiffness provided by the full deck. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the wonderful help freely given by Professor John Pryor and also by Dr Cemal Pulak of Texas A&M University. Professor Pryor has been incredibly helpful to a lubber like me and I owe to him almost everything I know of dromons, and certainly my decision that I could actually go ahead and make a model of one with a reasonable certainty of getting it right. He also referred me to his colleague Dr Cemal Pulak, (who took part in the excavation of eight of the Yenikapi ships, including two galleys). Dr Pulak was kind enough to send me a copy of his paper when it was published (it appears in the in the international Journal of Nautical Archaeology 2015 44.1; pages 39-73), as well as a photo of a partial reconstruction of the better preserved of the two galleys he excavated, built at a scale of 1:10. My model will follow Professor Pryor’s reconstruction as closely as possible, with a few modifications based on the Yenikapi finds and on some discoveries of my own when drawing up the model to scale. However, before constructing the full model, I plan to make a midships section at 1:20, with three sets of working oarsmen, as Professor Pryor pointed out that though theoretically the two banks of oars of his reconstructed dromon should not foul each other (Olympias had a lot of trouble with broken oars from fouling between oars of different banks), they have not been tested in the real world. I've attached a PDF of the plans in their current state of development. It should be very interesting. Steven dromon.dwg Model (1).pdf
  2. Thanks for all the likes and encouraging comments. I think I've come a long way since the first figure I did for the ship (which I now consider not good enough to be included). Christos, I've got quite a few figures made now - they're scattered through the build log. The helmsman is incomplete till I get the steering oars in position (I have to work out exactly where his arms go), and the seated Captain probably won't be included now because he has to give up his seat when the Emperor is aboard. There was a quantum leap in the quality when I got the magnifying headset, though. Though I'd carved wooden figures before, I'd never tried to carve anything that small with that amount of detail, and the headset made it so much easier to see detail. Compare the face of this guy with the Emperor and his courtiers and bodyguards, which I made after I got the headset. Steven
  3. Started work on the pseudopation (forecastle), making use of the lessons I learnt making the xylokastra - such as making the deck and parapet before I make the supports. Here's the cardboard mock-up (version 2) along with the lion's head which forms the outlet for the nozzle of the siphon for Greek Fire (which will be added after the structure is complete and in place). Deck structure, Decking added And in the meantime for a break, a bit of carving - the Emperor's second Viking bodyguard. More to do, but coming along nicely. I believe the faces are getting better as I gain more experience, but the magnifying headpiece has made a big difference as well. Steven
  4. Thanks everyone for the likes. Patrick, I may still have to adjust the frames. The upper part of the new frame second from the front seems to have a slightly different angle to the others, and may have to be packed out a bit. I'll be better able to sort this out when I replace the upper planking. Steven
  5. I built this model of the Great Harry back in about 1970 when I was a teenager. I'd previously made models from plastic kits and carved from solid blocks of wood, but this was the first time I'd tried a plank-built model. It was based on the reconstruction in Bjo"rn Landstro"m's excellent book The Ship, which showed a copy by the author of the Anthony Roll illustration of 1545, and the author's conjectural reconstructions of a midship section and a side view of the ship above the waterline. All of this was before the raising of the Mary Rose, so it was based on far less information available than we have now. I drew up a set of plans and proceeded to build the model. I got the hull complete and painted, added masts and spars and sails, and was adding shrouds, deadeyes and ratlines (nowadays I'd do this before I added the spars, but I've learned a lot since then). I even had a couple of figures on deck and another in one in the mizzentop. Unfortunately I'd made the stern far too wide and when I saw another picture of the ship by the same author, showing her with a far narrower stern, I decided to pull the stern off and fix it. Then life got in the way. Suddenly I had to move to the other side of Australia, about 4000 km (2500 miles) away and never got a chance to revisit the model. It stayed in its box, getting progressively more damaged as I repeatedly moved house. I've lost track of a lot of the stuff that broke off over the years, the sails went dark brown and started to rot. Finally, after all these years I've had the chance to revisit and, I hope, return the ship to her former glory.
  6. Thanks, Druxey. Yes, it's 1:200. You can blame Bjorn Landstrom (sorry, can't add the correct accents to his name) - I directly copied it from the 1:200 reconstruction side view in his book The Ship. When I built it in 1970-odd, I carved three people out of bamboo to inhabit the ship. They were pretty tiny. Sadly, they got lost along the way along with many of the other nice detailed bits I made. Still, 1:200 pales into insignificance compared with the guys who routinely make ships at 1:350. I have no idea how they do it. Patrick, you were right; the frame was out of line. I've fixed it and moved on somewhat, putting in cross-beams which will support the upper deck. This is all a bit rough and ready - I have yet to work out exactly the run of the deck - the black lines are where I think the deck will run - and of the hull below the water line. Which is part of the reason for using balsa - it's so easy to work and to "bodge" if it's bit out. Still lots of work to be done, but slowly making progress. Steven
  7. Thanks, Pat. Patrick, I'll check this out. You may well be right, but photos can often be misleading. Steven
  8. Igor, I missed your return to this project back in May. I'm so glad you came back and completed it. You've done a beautiful job. Steven
  9. I agree, Dick. However, it will be a while before I'm confronted by this problem and I've decided not to worry too much about it till then (the problems I have to resolve at the moment are quite enough for the time being). I'll be re-using as much of the original upper-work planking as I can, but there'll be a certain amount of new stuff I'll have to add, and the whole of the hull below the water line needs new planking. What I have now is walnut, rather than the "Queensland walnut" I used when I first built her. I think I'll be trying to match the timbers as closely as possible; the overall goal is to repair her to be as she would have been at the time, rather than to show up the repairs. The main deck is bamboo, made from old blinds. I may be able to get something similar. If not, I have a piece of bamboo I'll probably cut into planks for the upper deck. I've added the extra frames I needed. I had to reverse engineer frames, to be the right size to fit inside the existing planking (instead of making the frames first and then putting the planking on afterwards). The second-last frame is a bit skewiff so I'll have to undo and re-glue it, properly square. I've marked where the tops of the upper deck-beams will be on each of the new frames, and now I have to decide exactly what to do next. I'll be putting beams in, of course, but I may cut the frames off above the beams and add false frames where they're visible, in some wood more appropriate than balsa. Steven
  10. Louie da fly

    Greetings from Wollongong Australia

    Welcome to MSW, Paolo, from far-flung Ballarat. You'll find everybody here very helpful. Are you going to start a build log? Steven
  11. Louie da fly

    Yet Another Returnee

    I think the idea that "My work is not good enough" is common to 90% of the people who start build logs, and often a disincentive to start one. But do it anyway. Nobody's going to criticize and you'll get a lot of support in your build. And (from my own experience) the "faults" that loom so large to you often turn out to be part of the learning experience. We've all been there, even the legends of MSW (which I hasten to add, don't include me). Fear of making mistakes often stops us doing anything at all, so jump in regardless - make mistakes and learn from them. And next time you don't make that mistake again. And every time you make a new model, it'll be better than the last one. Steven
  12. Louie da fly

    Yet Another Returnee

    Hi Kevin, Welcome to MSW. I agree, the members of this forum are unusual in their helpfulness and generosity. It makes it a lot better just knowing there's someone out there who can probably help with information or problem-solving if you happen to get stuck or need to find something out. It would be good to see some photos of your models in progress. Are you planning to start a build log? Steven
  13. A nice piece of work. The ships of this period - the great days of exploration - are really interesting, and you're making very good progress with a very good-looking model. And I agree, a scratch build is a very special thing. I like the fact that you are cutting and seasoning your own timber for the ship. Walnut and pear are beautiful woods, and pear is also great for carving. You're lucky to have these timbers growing native in your country. In Australia where I live most people have to pay a lot of money to get even small pieces of European timbers. However, my home town of Ballarat is unusual; the street trees are mostly European - ash, oak, elm. Two of my neighbours have pear trees, and one had a walnut tree that died, so I got the timber. The translator seems to be working well. Though it uses unusual words for some technical terms (such as "plating" where we would say "planking") it's quite easy to make out your meaning. Best wishes with your project. I'm enjoying following it. Steven
  14. Thanks everybody for all the likes. Cog, unfortunately the wood is as tough as old boots, so I can't just shove a pin into it, much as I'd like to. And the smallest drill bit I can get is considerably larger diameter than a pin, so it would slop around in the hole. Druxey, Pat and Patrick, thanks for the comments. And Christos, Ευχαριστώ πολύ φίλε μου. Best wishes to all for the New Year, Steven
  15. Beautiful weathering work, Greg. She really looks like she's been at sea for a good while. Looking at your post #173 I couldn't figure out why a WWI battleship would have a WWII funnel. Then looking further on I realised it was the funnel of the model behind her . . . Yamato? Steven
  16. Another piece of "learning by doing" - probably the only possible way to construct the bow framing; hard to predict in theory, but the obvious road to travel when doing it in practice. Steven
  17. Thanks for all the likes, and thanks Druxey and Pat for the encouraging comments. Very much appreciated, particularly with what turned out to be a very frustrating stage of the build. Well, I've finished the xylokastra at last. Parapet planking nearly complete on the first one - with a crewman for comparison. Planking complete. I sanded it all smooth, but it looked a little bare, so I added some horizontals nominally to strengthen the structure but really to make it look better. Another column came loose, so I "pinned" it. I ended up doing this to all the corner columns, and even then I had to repeat the procedure with at least one of them because the pin broke. Next time I do this (for the forecastle or pseudopation) I'll do the columns last, because a lot of repair had to be done to damage which occurred while I was working on the superstructure. And I'll carve an integral pin into the end of each column to hold everything together, rather than (a) butt-jointing the tops of the columns and/or (b) drilling holes in the tops of the columns to add the pins. The same problem came up with the corner pieces of the substructure, and in future I'll pin these as well. As you can see below the corner piece came away along with everything attached to it as I was working on the superstructure, and the whole thing had to be repaired. The first xylokastron complete. The second one under way. And a comparison with the finished one. Both xylokastra complete and inhabited, with a crewman, a Varangian guardsman and a flute-player (for giving the rowing pace to the oarsmen). These aren't the guys who will be there - they're to go elsewhere on the ship. In fact I might leave the xylokastra completely uninhabited, as the vessel's not in combat. It's been a long and difficult process, but I've learnt a lot while doing it, which will stand me in good stead later in this and future builds. Steven
  18. Louie da fly

    confused about getting help from Forums

    I've found MSW to be almost a one-off when it comes to helpfulness and friendliness to newbies and their "stupid" questions. None of the rudeness, self-righteousness or flame wars I've come across on other forums I've been on. It's a great relief and a major plus in favour of MSW. You guys! (wipes away a manly tear). Steven
  19. Louie da fly

    Music to build ship models to ...

    To be really blown away, I sometimes put this on. The most sumptuous production imaginable - worthy of the music. Even more sumptuous than necessary - unbelievable detail even in tiny bits of personal jewellery that wouldn't be visible from the first row . . . And the MUSIC . . . Steven
  20. Thanks for the likes. I discovered I'd made the frames too narrow for a smooth curve of the hull where they were supposed to be. Not too much of a problem - I just moved them sternwards till they fitted within the curve. The furthest aft frame stayed where it was and I glued it in place. I had to work out some sort of temporary jig to get it square to the hull and the keel - voila! Pins and a couple of bits of balsa. Clamped the jig to the keel with a clothes peg and glued the frame in place. When I wanted to remove the jig, I just pulled out the pins. Then I clamped the existing planking to it with clothes pegs to get the curve I wanted, placed the next frame so it just reached the inside face of the planking on both sides and glued it in place using the same type of jig. And same technique with the third frame from the stern/ Now I need to make some more, wider frames, which will fill the gap forrard of the ones I relocated. Steven
  21. Beautifully clean, precise work, Peter. And she looks good, too! Steven
  22. Louie da fly

    Anchor From HMS Investigator

    A nice bit of history. I think I've been to Esperance once, many years ago. Steven
  23. For the first time in my membership of MSW a post I made to my build log has been prevented from appearing by a message that it had been blocked by a firewall provided by "Sucuri", and I was advised to open a support ticket if I felt the block was incorrect. The support ticket route didn't seem to work, and I don't even know if this is a legitimate website or some fake site I've fallen foul of. I really don't understand what this is all about. Does Sucuri supply the MSW firewall? And how do I get to be able to post again? Steven
  24. I tried re-posting and there was still a problem. So I split the post in two. The first half uploaded no problem, but the second half hit the firewall again. I took out all the pics - no go. So I took out the text, paragraph by paragraph. Something in the second paragraph must have triggered it, because once removed the post uploaded. I re-drafted the offending paragraph and now all is well. No idea what that was all about, but very happy it's now sorted out. (Breathes sigh of relief). And keep my fingers crossed it never happens again. Steven
  25. A problem from an earlier step got in the way - the tops of the columns were only butt-jointed to the rest of the assembly. Look at what happens when you use flexible PVA (white) glue. I had to use some kind of pin or peg to join the columns to the rest of the assembly. The smallest drill I could get was 1mm, so I needed a 1mm peg. Couldn't find any, so I made my own from bamboo toothpicks. Size checked against a 1mm hole. Peg inserted in a hole drilled in the top of the column and glued in place. Hole drilled into the capital and the xylokastron framing above it. Peg inserted and glued into the hole in the capital. A bit labour intensive, but it seems to have worked. Pushing the outside of the envelope, though, with the (pretty basic) equipment I've got. Getting the holes centred and in line was very difficult. Unfortunately I can only do this at the corners of the xylokastra, where there's enough "meat" above th columns to take a 1mm hole. With the other columns I'll just have to be very careful to make sure they're vertical before I glue their bases in place on the deck of the ship. Steven

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