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About Cathead

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  • Birthday 09/08/1979

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    Missouri, USA
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    Ecology, history, science, cooking, baseball, soccer, travel

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  1. BlueJacket Lobster Boat: A Review

    Ragove, that's interesting that you had quality issues, as I didn't. The only part I broke was the very thin port-side door frame which sticks up alone for part of the build, and that was my fault for rough handling. I was able to reattach and brace it with no problems. Otherwise the frames stood up well to sanding and shaping, and the planking material was strong but flexible. I did hear from Nic at BlueJacket (I hope it's ok to share this) that the kit is due for an upgrade, which would be exciting as it's fundamentally an interesting model and well worth building.
  2. The term actually isn't unique to riverboats. As far as I know, "Packet" originally referred to an ocean-going ship carrying mail, passengers, and/or smaller freight on a regular schedule or route. The term was simply adapted to interior American riverboats that followed a similar function. So a riverboat that followed a regular schedule between, say, New Orleans and St. Louis might be called a packet, whereas one that sought out trade wherever it happened to be or didn't stick to a schedule wouldn't be. For example, the boats that headed for the Upper Missouri River from St. Louis each spring after the ice broke up wouldn't be considered packets because they only made one or two trips a year due to the very long distance, and weren't following a schedule so much as heading upriver with goods for the mining camps and intending to bring back gold from Montana (more like an Indiaman or galleon than a packet). I don't know the actual origin of the term, but have always assumed it referred to the smaller "packets" of mail that such ships/boats tended to carry, as opposed to regular merchantmen carrying bulk cargo. I hope Kurt or another expert knows the answer to that, or can offer any correction to my understanding above.
  3. BlueJacket Lobster Boat: A Review

    Nice, Kurt, thanks for sharing! Your extra detail looks especially nice. Your shade of green seems more marine, but I chose the exact color scheme I did because it's quite literally the same as our house. After I rejected the kit paints, I decided to use the house paints I already had on hand for our siding and trim as I'm budget-conscious and really didn't want to order yet more paints (I wish I'd thought of that in the first place). I know that house paints are generally not good for models because the texture is so much coarser, but given the large scale and low detail of this particular kit, I thought it would work well enough, and as it's a gift for my mother any subtle reduction in textural quality is overruled by the "cool" factor of a meaningful color scheme. If you look closely you can see the texture isn't ideal, but it looks great from more than a foot or so away, and that's good enough for me on this one. Next up I'm finally getting back to my long-delayed steamboat Arabia project, which has been languishing all summer. It's still in design mode but I'm close to actually doing some physical mockups that will help me move forward.
  4. BlueJacket Lobster Boat: A Review

    I forgot to mention one related point. I also purchased the separate paint kit for this model, but had a serious problem. I have always used water-based paints because of their easier cleanup and lower toxicity (I work in my living room and both my wife and I are fairly sensitive to chemical odors). I did not realize that the paint kit was oil-based until I received it (although I should have as the list includes thinner). The odors from the open bottles permeated our house and gave me nausea and a headache. Even when I tried painting outside, when I brought the dry model back indoors it still reeked of chemical paint smell. I closed up the entire paint kit, set it aside, and never touched it again. I used water-based paints instead with no problems, as is my normal practice. So if anyone would like a complete, nearly unused set of paints for this kit, I'd be happy to part with them rather than having the bottles sit around going unused. If you're less sensitive than I am, or have a better painting setup, they may well work great for you. Just not for me.
  5. BlueJacket Lobster Boat

    Maine lobster boat by BlueJacket Shipcrafters. Read my review of this kit here.
  6. BlueJacket Shipcrafters seems to be under-represented in build logs on MSW, despite their reputation as a quality American model company that’s been in business a very long time. I recently completed their Lobster Boat kit and thought I’d write up a quick review, as there aren’t any build logs for this kit on MSW (I didn’t do a log myself as I wanted a break from documenting model work and intended this to be a relatively quick, relaxing build). Overall, I enjoyed building this kit, though there were a few things future builders might consider. Above is my finished model, built and named for my mother, who has long loved Maine, especially the Schoodic Peninsula. The number boards commemorate this year's birthday, when she'll receive this model. It's finished in the same green and white color as my current house. Positives: Good-quality materials. All the wood was solid and easy to work with, and the castings were clean and straightforward. Clear and accurate plans. These matched the kit’s parts and were helpful as a reference. I could have used them to scratchbuild this without the instructions or materials. Not too complicated. The kit might be tough for a complete beginner as it assumes a bit of knowledge, but almost anyone could figure these bits out and it’s pretty straightforward overall. It doesn’t have a lot of detail, which I think is good as it keeps the cost down and lets you choose whether you want to invest the time and money into creating a more detailed custom version. Concerns: The written instruction booklet is less than ideal. The black-and-white photos are very grainy and make it difficult to see any useful detail. For example, I was essentially unable to determine the planking pattern used because the photo was so blurry. Also, the text is presented in a long, linear block that could really use better organization and editing. Photos and drawings are often placed nowhere near their relevant text, resulting in lots of flipping back and forth trying to make sense of a given step. There is some "curse of knowledge" in places, where the instructions refer to a given part without defining what that is in real life or providing a clear diagram or label for the model. Bow design. The kit’s default is to use a large carved block at the bow, rather than planking all the way to the stem. With no experience, I had a very hard time carving and shaping this properly and finally gave up and reverted to planking the whole hull, something I have more experience in. That may just be my own problem, but it’s something a beginner should consider. Also, the added material needed to plank the whole hull (rather than just up to the bow block) meant that I exhausted the kit material and had to use a few pieces of my own scrap to complete the work. Beware of this potential if you decide to fully plank the hull rather than carving the bow. A few oddities in the proper fit and size of pieces. For example, several of the hull frames really didn’t line up with the others, requiring me to add a 1/8” strip along the frame to match the flow of the planking or to carve/sand away material. Some of the cabin pieces also needed significant sanding or additions to form up properly. None of this was particularly difficult, but did mean that builders should be careful to check everything before gluing. For example, see the following two photos: In the photo above, note that the run of lower planking really bows upward at the third frame from the stern. I somehow missed this when checking my fairing and planking run. It isn't really noticeable on the finished model because both the paint and position hide it from clear view, but this clearly needed extra material added to the frame. In the photo above, you can see the thickness of extra material I needed to add to both sides of the second frame from the bow to match the natural flow of the planks. It's more obvious on the right side due to the shadow effect, but it's the same for both. The fourth frame from the bow has similar material attached to widen it, while other frames needed to be sanded down by a similar margin. Getting a smooth run of planking was more work than I expected, though not particularly difficult. Here are two more photos of the completed model from various perspectives: Overall, I certainly recommend this model as a fun build. True beginners should be cautious and would benefit from carefully thinking through every step, test-fitting everything, and doing some research on the side to understand certain aspects of kit-building that are taken for granted by the instructions. Although I mildly criticize the instructions and a few parts above, they were still far better than those of the Corel Ranger that I built before this. Overall, the concerns were minor and easily dealt with by common sense and careful work, and the result is a quite attractive model (in my humble opinion). It has a lot of potential for adding extra detail if you really want a realistic appearance; for my mother, I was happy with a representative model that captures the feel of these iconic American work boats without much fuss. This was my first BlueJacket kit and I would definitely purchase another.
  7. just what is a "scratch built model"?

    I'm actually a bit amused by some of the more agricultural analogies, as Mrs. Cathead and I do in fact mill our own flour, raise our own eggs, process our own meat, log and mill our own lumber (though only for full-scale projects), etc. You never know who's out there doing something that seems crazy to everyone else.
  8. just what is a "scratch built model"?

    Right on, Kurt. People build when they're able to. Moreover, they write build logs when they're able, and both naturally become easier toward retirement. It's true of any number of hobbies/interests. I'm involved in my local Audubon Society and am one of only a handful of people under-40 who are really active. But that's because most people my age are raising kids and doing serious triage regarding time commitments and priorities. That's just life, not laziness or failure. Anyone feeling too dour about modellers' ages should go read Mike Y's fantastic build with his young daughter, which should warm the cockles of even the coldest heart. The last photo in this post is just fantastic.
  9. just what is a "scratch built model"?

    In my mind the primary difference is the intellectual property. Was the project primarily conceived of, planned, and executed primarily by the builder, or did the building primarily follow the guidance and pre-planning of someone else? Personally, I don't care if a builder makes all their own parts or not; the real question is whether they're building or adapting someone else's vision (a kit) or creating their own (scratch). I've done projects that clearly fit into both; building a kit out-of-the-box with no modifications, building a model for which I drew my own plans and didn't use a single purchased item other than raw wood, and some in-between. What mattered most to me in all of these was whether I was the primary intellectual engine behind the project. Did I have to plan the entire thing out and hold the design, process, and materials in my head? Or could I rely on someone else's planning and materials list to guide me? That's the important distinction I see. Realistically, there is absolutely no way to draw a clear line between the two, as someone will always ask about a project where they started with a kit's solid hull but did everything else themselves, etc. It's really no different than biology; there is less of a clear definition of "species" than most people think. The concept is a guideline helping us understand the world rather than a rule set in natural law.
  10. Great question. There are a wide variety of experience levels here. I'd never built a wooden model before a few years ago, but I started small and worked my way up. I strongly recommend choosing something small with very good instructions. You will have plenty of opportunity to dive into a more complex model once you've gotten your feet wet. Choose a basic open boat or a simple schooner, something that won't overwhelm you. As for tools, I've built all the models in my signature entirely with basic hand tools (nothing powered or expensive), just a set of knives, files, sandpaper, squares, clamps, etc. Don't go buying lots of supplies until you're sure you want or need them. Good luck and have fun!
  11. I don't know why I just made this connection, but you can bump BlueJacket up to 11, because I've been working on their lobster boat kit this summer. I just didn't start a build log because I wanted a break from documenting everything and I was already spending time designing my next scratchbuild. But it certainly counts as interest in their products. I'm also very much looking forward to some of their upcoming new releases such as a cross section of the USS Cairo.
  12. This is all very interesting. I suggest that various aspects of marketing are a strong factor. For example, of the American "Big 2", Model-Expo has a much more attractive and easily-usable website than BlueJacket does. The former (even before the recent redesign) prominently featured pretty photos of finished kits with easy access to information like downloadable instructions (which modelers can use to check how complex the kits really are). The latter's site makes it pretty hard to navigate through and browse kits, offers few photos, and relatively little information about the kits. I've visited BlueJacket in person and found their physical location to be wonderful and their people great, but their online presence really doesn't reflect the quality of their business. I have to admit that I'm more likely to order parts and tools from M-E because their site is so much easier and pleasanter to use. As for AL, yeah, it's everywhere. In fact, the spark that got me into wooden model shipbuilding in the first place was seeing the page of wooden models advertised in one of the really big generic American model-tool catalogues (Micro-Mark, I think). I hadn't even known that this was a possible thing, and here was this page of beautiful ship models that claimed to be accessible to anyone. Being myself, I didn't jump right in and order, though, I started doing research to find out more about this new hobby and whether I really could build those, found MSW and learned that there were other, better manufacturers out there albeit with less slick marketing. And I was quickly convinced to start small rather than dive into a big, shiny AL kit of the Bounty or something. Speaking of AL, I still feel there's a gaping hole for someone to do a good, authentic American riverboat kit other than M-E's Chaperon. So many other companies make the same ripped-off, out-of-scale, toylike "Mississippi Riverboat" kit that is just gawdawful to look at for anyone who knows anything about the real things, but the fact that they all make one implies that there's demand for something like that. Surely some company could justify making a new, good riverboat kit that would tap into this inherent fascination with the Mark Twain era of American history without looking like something that ought to have wheels on the bottom for use in a playroom. EDIT: I should also note that Syren has an excellent website as well, which has made it that much easier to choose them for ordering extra parts, rope, etc.
  13. Colour of riverboat hulls?

    Oops, you're right. I searched for O scale figures and didn't double-check that Google returned the right scale. HO is actually about half the size (hence Half-O scale), at 1:87, so those would actually be midgets. But here's an example that should work. Overall, your best best is still to search for model railroad figures with a western, old-time, or steam-era theme, making sure they're American or at least not blatantly European. The company I linked to there, Walthers, is about the biggest retailer of model railroad products in the US and a good starting point for a search. I have no idea if/how they ship overseas, but their catalogue will at least give you a sense of what's out there.
  14. Colour of riverboat hulls?

    Chris, 1:50 is very close to the model railroad O scale (1:48), for which there are a variety of figures available. If you like for "old-time" or "western" style figures, you'll be in roughly the right time period (mid-late 1800s). Here's one example I found with a quick search. Just be careful about European brands like Preiser, their prototypes tend to be European and you could get some very strange uniforms and styles for a riverboat on the American frontier. As for color, I definitely feel that white is the correct choice. It was by far the most common color and thus will "feel" authentic. As you suggest, shoot for a thin coat of paint that lets the planking show through; it would have been visible on the real thing. You really can't go wrong with a white hull and superstructure, dull red/brown main deck and wheel(s), and dark grey/black tarpaper covering on the exposed upper decks.
  15. Colour of riverboat hulls?

    Yeah, Way's is a lot of fun to browse, though a bit mind-blowing in its diversity and complexity. Once you've read through the logs Kurt suggested, I'd also suggest Glenn Grieco's Heroine and, humbly, my Bertrand (see link in signature).