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  1. Chris: Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comment. Dean's Marine in England is the manufacturer and vendor of the kit. The link is below. https://www.deansmarine.co.uk/ I'm not sure if this will work as a hot link but if not it could be cut and pasted. The kit is the St. Olaf in their merchant ship section. Steve
  2. To all who liked, thanks for stopping in. I appreciate your interest. Carl, I've gone to the darkside (white styrene side?) for awhile, but for a good cause. And this one will actually sail (he said hopefully). My grandson has already made a Lego figure of my late mother (complete with dress) to stand on the Vance when she takes her ceremonial trip across the pond. The other part of me also researched my next wood model, for which I have procured some plans and which I hope will start in a year or so. Thanks for the Glue 'n Glaze tip. I'll check it out. More work to show later. Steve
  3. Moab, thanks for stopping in and for your compliments. I've become a fan of jigs and I'm glad you could make use of them. Steve
  4. To all who gave likes, thank you and thanks for stopping by. Chris, thanks also for stopping in, and for your support and encouragement. Steve The first order of business was to squeeze the 54 inch hull into the shipyard. Thankfully my work surface is 60 inches long. The hull needed to be scrubbed with dishwashing liquid and warm water to remove mould release, then air dried after rinsing. Apparently rubbing the fiberglass dry with a towel results in static build up which causes problems with paint. Piano wire, which is installed through small holes drilled in the hull, provides a guide for placement of the perimeter deck beams. The instructions show nice straight lengths but when the local piano store sold me some wire it came off a roll. Deuce of a time getting it semi-straight. I tried the stretching trick used to straighten brass wire but believe me, piano wire doesn’t want to stretch. The perimeter deck beam is built up with three layers of laminated styrene strips from the laser cut sheets. The strips aren’t that stiff so the gluing clamps must be close together to keep the beam aligned with a layout line I marked using a flexible metal straightedge. The line at the bow and stern needed tweaking since the straightedge doesn’t do a compound curve. The brown on the inside of the bulwarks is Bondo, used to smooth out the rough backside of the fiberglass since portions of the bulwarks are visible. Priming will tell whether the extensive sanding provides a reasonable finished surface. The instructions call for two cross beams, each laminated with 5 strips of beam material and supported at each end on beam seats made of styrene triangles glued to the underside of the perimeter beams. The question was how to align the beams perpendicular to the hull centerline. I stretched a string the length of the hull, marked it at the cross beam distance at each end, then held a triangle on the mark and parallel with the string while I marked the bulwarks on each side. I extended the marks down to the perimeter beams. The tape is to hold the hull, which is quite flexible on its own, to match the cross beam dimension while the glue dries. There is a wood stiffener along the hull centerline, sort of a poor man’s keelson, to help keep the hull flat. The wood is set in a layer of fiberglass resin and must be weighted down while the resin cures. Some spare patio blocks, with a block plane for a helper, did the job. The finish shot is below. There are many holes to be drilled, routed and filed along the hull. For the portholes I saw a tip for using a brad point drill bit on fiberglass. The problem is that the hull fiberglass is thin relative to the brad point. When the brad point passes through the hard gel coat it moves rapidly through the glass mat and charges out the back side, causing the perimeter points on the bit to slam into the gel coat, which responds to the insult by chipping out. The pics below show the result on the first two portholes (3/16 inch diameter) and the later repair. After that I used a small conventional bit for a pilot hole, which then allowed me to slowly introduce the brad point, using a very slow speed to let the perimeter points gradually score the gel coat. This worked much better. The small hole above and centered between the chipouts is the drilling for the piano wire which was filled and sanded. The short horizontal strips in the hull are the scupper locations. The vertical strips moulded into the hull represent rub rails that were added to discourage damage during delivery of injured soldiers at sea. I expect they will need some weathering, which I have never done before, and your suggestions are most welcome. I don't want the ship to look a complete wreck since the voyage I'm targeting was immediately after the Vance came out of post-hospital re-fit. The long promenade openings at the top of the hull were roughed out using a Dremel with a side cutting bit, after drilling a pilot hole, but the scuppers were too small for it. The photo above shows the tools, including an ancient rat tail file, that were used to finish the scuppers after chain drilling each scupper with a 1/16 inch bit. I’m sure there is an easier way but my tool choices are limited. The starboard hull holes are essentially complete, although now I have to figure out how to fill all the portholes so they will stand up to water entry during sailing. The instructions call for taping the outside of each porthole and filling with clear epoxy from the backside, but if you have any better experience please let me know. I have heard about Kristal Klear but I saw a comment that it is very thin when it sets so I don’t know how it would hold up. These first two episodes are mostly retrospective since I started in mid-August, then picked back up after returning from holiday. Future posts will be more stretched out to correspond with the work.
  5. This is a build log of the Zebulon B. Vance, based on the Dean’s Marine kit of the St. Olaf hospital ship, which was a sister ship to the Vance. My interest in the Vance was kindled when I was casting about for a new project after completing my first wooden ship build (Bowdoin by Bluejacket Shipcrafters which is chronicled elsewhere in MSW). My late mother was a WWII war bride who sailed from England to New York shortly after the war ended, and I thought if I could find and model her ship it would make a lasting gift to our family. And an interesting journey it has become. Before I get too far I would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their feedback and assistance: James E. Atwater, Assistant Curator, U.S. Army Transportation Museum James Smailes, Ship Plans Office, Smithsonian Institution Textual Reference Archives II Branch, National Archives at College Park, MD Nathan G. Jordan, Archives Specialist, National Archives at Atlanta, GA MSW member Koa4225 The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. The Library of Congress An excellent book on the subject is Hospital Ships of World War II An Illustrated Reference, by Emory A. Massman; McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999; which I purchased during the course of the research. The photo above from the Library of Congress (source C. Seavey, 2017) is of the Zebulon B. Vance launch on December 6, 1941 at the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, NC. The Vance was originally a Liberty Ship, the first of 90 to be built at the North Carolina shipyard. After several years of service the Vance was reconfigured to a hospital ship at the Bethlehem Steel yard in Boston, MA, one of six identical Liberty ships to be changed to support the growing need for transport and care of injured soldiers. In its hospital mode the Vance was renamed the U.S. Army Hospital Ship John J. Meany. In addition to new paint and red cross insignia the conversion added multiple decks and structural enhancements to support the new loads. The photo above, courtesy of the National Archives, shows the Meany in its hospital wardrobe. The Meany made six transatlantic voyages. At the conclusion of the last voyage to New York on January 1, 1946 the Meany was removed from hospital service and given a one month retrofit at the Bethlehem Steel 56th Street Yard in Brooklyn; to serve as a personnel carrier for the multitude of war brides and refugees traveling from England and Europe to the U.S. The Zebulon B. Vance name was restored. By this point the Vance was pretty tired and the quick changeover, illustrated in the photo below courtesy of the National Archives, did nothing to enhance its appearance. Pretty or not I’m guessing the Vance’s initial docking at Southampton, England was a welcome sight to over 500 war brides looking to escape the horrors and devastation visited upon their homeland. My mother was one of those brides who packed into the ship, three bunks high with no bathroom privacy, for the 16 day voyage. In later years she referred to the Vance as a “tramp steamer” and said she was sick the entire trip. When she arrived in New York in late February my dad met her at the dock. As they walked to the car he said, “You’re in the United States now, you have to know how to drive.” So he taught her, on the 150 mile trip north to Troy. She was a good driver after that, although I’m not quite sure how she did it after being sick for almost three weeks. I suppose it was child’s play after enduring the Blitz, V-2 rocket explosions while sitting in the park and other war traumas. So here we are. Having only one build under my belt I did not feel qualified to scratch build the Vance, nor did I feel I had the skill to kit bash a Liberty Ship model since the superstructure is so different in the Vance’s post-war configuration. I chose the Dean’s Marine kit because the St. Olaf was one of the six Liberty ships to follow the Vance’s reconfiguration to hospital ship, and because the post war Vance looks essentially identical to the St. Olaf except for paint. The downsides are the kit is large (54 inches) and the construction is fiberglass and laser cut styrene. Many of the new skills I learned with the wooden Bowdoin must be put on the shelf in favor of wet sanding, fiberglass resin and Bondo. The upside is that I have purchased the RC bits and pieces and I hope to recreate my mother’s voyage across the pond, with the pond near our house sitting in for the North Atlantic. Let’s get to it. The kit arrived well packaged, in a shipping box nearly as tall as the Admiral, and in a remarkable 4 days from England. In addition to what is shown the kit includes many sheets of laser cut styrene and a CD with a full range of photos. There are two instruction books, one more of a reference and the other more step-by-step. And about 1000 pieces of PE brass, 600 of which are railing stanchions. The Vance’s hull was placed on top of the Bowdoin case for scale reference. The Vance is 1:96 and the Bowdoin is 1:48.
  6. ESF


    Nils, your work is stunning; breathtakingly beautiful in its scope and execution. Thank you for sharing with us. Steve
  7. And here's a few more after masking was removed. Thanks, and remember if you don't like the paint, sand it down and do it again. When I did the inside of the stern block I shook the small bottle of primer but forgot to stir it well. The primer stayed soft and nothing I could do would cover it - it kept bleeding through. So I stripped it off and started over. Steve
  8. Zachary, The short answer is many years of painting around the house, one plastic model (Revell Saturn V) which taught me some skills at using small brushes and careful masking, and a bunch of reading on MSW. The rest of it was patience (prep and repeat, paint and repeat) until it looked like I wanted it. There was zero speed. As for what I did on Bowdoin see below. I've also included some pics at the end. The suggestion for using the ready-patch to "butter" the entire hull before starting the main sanding came from Charlie at Bluejacket. After multiple rounds of sanding back to the wood, filling the remaining low spots, sanding down the high spots and doing it all again, the hull was quite smooth. I spray primed with a can of KILZ because I have used it on projects around the house and found it to be a good sealer/primer. It took more than one coat because the primer highlighted any remaining defects, that needed filling/sanding again. I tried to keep the coats light. Then I drew the waterline and taped along the line with an automotive masking tape which had enough flexibility to follow the curves. I placed the tape so I could brush paint the upper hull white. I wanted to brush the final coats since I understand most ships were brush painted and I wanted some fine brush strokes in the finish. At the stern I had to use some shorter pieces due to the severity of the curve. This required several coats, again with sanding and spot filling in between. After the white was thoroughly dry I pulled the masking tape off and re-masked the waterline, on the other side of the line, to give me a sharp edge against which to paint the lower hull the red color. I tried to use the same number of coats of white and red so the line between the coats would be flush at the surface of the paint. When I removed the second masking there were some small bleed areas of red over white where the masking tape wasn't fully burnished down. I was a bit chagrined, but soon discovered that by using my magnifier headset, a no. 11 blade and more patience I could scrape off the red bleeds without damaging the underlying white. It's amazing what you can do when you take your time working close up. After the color painting I flattened the paint with a combination of paper towel followed by Kleenex, again based on a tip I saw. These have just enough roughness to the surface to smooth the paint. After all that and a final wipe down I sprayed a few coats of Testors dullcote to remove any gloss. Here are a few pics:
  9. Piet, I just discovered your wonderful project. Your finished build has a terrific sense of motion and action, and combined with your story telling the diorama truly captures what must have been a harrowing moment of desperation. Well done, and Godspeed to you and your family. Thank you for sharing this remarkable journey. Steve
  10. Also, thanks for all the recent likes. I don't check the site every day since the work is finished except for answering questions, but I really appreciate your ongoing interest. Steve
  11. Mark, thanks for stopping in and thanks for your comment. I learn something new every day from the kind members of MSW and NRG. Steve
  12. Zachary, I used the metal ones that came with the kit. I spray painted them after lining them up on a piece of tape turned sticky side up and secured at each end with another piece sticky side down. If I did it again I'd probably try the blackening (in the brown color) solution because the paint tended to chip during rigging. After cleaning up the metal flash on the blocks I used an x-acto no. 11 blade to deepen the stropping groove around the block, and I used a small drill bit to ensure the block holes were clean and well reamed - the rigging thread with beeswax on it was a tight fit otherwise. I used the kit black thread for stropping and seized the stropping with 6/0 uni-thread available through fishing supply stores. J Brent has a nice Youtube video that shows a simple way to install the seizing. Steve
  13. Steven, Your work at such a tiny scale with such delicate lumber is very impressive. Congrats on a wonderful build. Steve
  14. Ian, thanks so much for your compliment. I truly appreciate it. Zachary, below are some stern pics. The instructions said to install the first four or five planks full width but that left little room at the stern to work with. If I did it again I think I would have tapered all the planks so that those at the stern weren't so severely spiled. The saving grace was that the hull was filled and painted which hid a lot of planking sins. Thanks again for your help on the Vance. Steve The other thing I noticed in the stern area was that the cutout in the rudder didn't seem to align very well with the corresponding cutout at the stern post. It may be a question of how I shaped the rudder at top and bottom. That may have thrown the alignment off.
  15. A very elegant build and an equally elegant presentation. I think the case looks great. I particularly like the 3/4 view. Who looks through the curved edge at a model anyway? If it was wood framed the edge would block the view completely. Great job, and thanks for sharing. Steve

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