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Everything posted by schooner

  1. Liberty Ship SS Stephen Hopkins - BlueJacket Shipcrafters - 1/192 scale While mulling over what kit to select for my next build I was giving some thought to taking a break from warships and BlueJacket’s Liberty ship kit caught my attention because of the amount of rigging on it: Although I never served on any type of cargo or replenishment ship I figured “How complicated can it be?” Doing some photo research I came across the next photo of BIG CHAINS hanging from the masts of the SS John Brown and realized there is a lot I don’t know about cargo rigging and that this might be a good way to learn about it so I will be building BlueJacket’s kit of the Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brian, which is still operating in San Francisco (BTW, I eventually found out that the chains are called Bull Chains). The next decision was what Liberty ship to model. With over 2700 Liberty ships built between 1941 and 1945 there is an embarrassment of ships to choose from but after a little research the choice was obvious. Although the Stephen Hopkins had a very brief life, being sunk on her maiden voyage, she would be a contender in any contest to name the greatest fighting ship in American history, despite being an “SS” vice a “USS.” It’s an amazing story, one that I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t pick up on. So I won’t be taking a break from building warships after all . . . You can read her full story at http://www.armed-guard.com/hoppy.html, but in brief, after fitting out in San Francisco as one of the earliest Libertys, the Hopkins crossed the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, steaming alone and entered the South Atlantic where on 27 Sep 1942, in low visibility, she encountered at the range of about a mile two ships laying to. The ships turned out to be the heavily armed German raider Stier and the blockade runner Tannenfels. With a crew of 340, six 6-inch guns, torpedoes and numerous smaller caliber weapons the Stier had the armament of a light cruiser, in fact ten months earlier the similarly armed raider Komoran sank the cruiser HMAS Sydney off the West coast of Australia, although the Komoran was sunk also. The Stier opened fire immediately and the Hopkins’ Master decided to fight it out rather than surrender as most ships in her position would have done. The Hopkins’ single, obsolete 4-inch gun was moved by hand cranks and manually loaded but her Naval Armed Guard had been practicing at every opportunity and it began to show. The Hopkins quickly knocked out the Stier’s steering and repetitive hits along the waterline soon caused fires to break out in the Stier’s engineering spaces and she went dead in the water, as the Hopkins did too, with her boilers disabled. Both ships continued to drift and fight at about a thousand yards distance, like something out of the War of 1812. The heavy firepower of the Stier began to tell and after about 20 minutes the Hopkins was afire and sinking with two-thirds of her crew of 55 dead. Engineering Cadet Edwin O’Hara, from the US Merchant Marine Academy, made his way to the 4-inch gun after the engineering spaces were abandoned. He found the gun crew dead and the magazine destroyed but was able to locate 5 loose shells and single-handedly fired them at the Stier just before before he was killed. Nineteen survivors from the Hopkins managed to launch the one undamaged lifeboat. Meanwhile the Stier’s crew was unable to control the fires spreading out of the engine room and she had to be scuttled. Her survivors were recovered by the Tannenfels, who made no effort to aid the Hopkins survivors. Under the command of the 3rd Engineer and without any charts or navigation instruments except a compass the Hopkins’ boat set out to cross the Atlantic to Brazil. Amazingly enough they made it 30 days later with 15 men still alive. The ships were built in 18 purpose-built yards, which themselves were constructed in remarkably short time, turning mudflats into complex shipyards in just a few months. Locations of the yards were based on available manpower, however untrained, and political considerations to “spread the wealth” of government contracts across the coastlines. The Libertys were based on the then yet-to be built British “Ocean” design that was, in turn, based on successful coasters. The goal was to design a ship that was both inexpensive and quick to build, simple enough in design that inexperienced shipyards and workers could build them, that could make 11 knots and carry a significant amount of cargo. They departed from the British design in that they were largely welded, most of the accommodations were in a large deckhouse, rather than divided among the foc’sle, midships and aft.. Their boilers were water tube vice Scotch, and were oil-fired rather than coal. Without having to accommodate coal bunkers they could be fitted with heavier masts rather than king posts. Although by 1941 the advantages of turbines over reciprocating steam engines were well known, the technical skill required to build turbines was much greater and the small number of plants capable of producing them were all dedicated to warship construction so the decision was made to go with reciprocating engines. The Ocean design was further simplified to minimize the amount of curved plates in the hull and wherever possible bulkhead penetrations for piping were avoided by running them outside the skin of the ship. Cost saving measures included waiving a large number of US regulations related to Merchant ship safety, comfort and, ominously for the Hopkins, fireproofing. The ships had little in the way of forced ventilation and had the reputation of being hot and uncomfortable in most climates. Although the building time varied between shipyards , the common trend was that as they gained experience the time required to complete the ships steadily dropped. The first few could take up to 5 months to launch, although most only required a few weeks. The record was set by the SS Robert E. Peary, while admittedly a publicity stunt involving a lot of pre-fabrication and unlimited manpower, required only 4 days, 15 hours from keel laying to launch. By the end of the war an average of 3 Liberty ships a day were being launched. If you are interested in learning more about the Liberty ships this URL will take you to a decent study produced by the American Bureau of Shipping: https://www.eagle.org/eagleExternalPortalWEB/ShowProperty/BEA%20Repository/News%20&%20Events/Publications/WorkhorseOfTheFleet and this one will take you to a one-hour, color, wartime documentary film about the ships and the shipyard in Richmond, CA where the Hopkins was built: https://archive.org/details/cubanc_00004# I'll be using the following references: SS John W. Brown, a working Liberty ship berthed in Baltimore. Although she has some modifications from her conversion to carry troops and as a school ship in NYC she is still in remarkably good condition and largely unchanged from her WWII days. I was able to spend a few hours onboard, take a lot of photos, and watch the cargo booms at work. She takes day trips from ports along the East Coast. A Call to Arms by Maury Klein. Although the book covers the entire US WWII industrial mobilization, the chapter on shipbuilding is well done. Ships for Victory by Frederic C. Lane. Thank God I was able to get this from the library rather than spend any money on it. If 900+ pages of meeting by meeting and memo by memo descriptions of bureaucracy at work excites you then this is your book. Even while skimming it I was worried that I would pass out and then drown in the puddle of my own drool. The book provided some insight into the welding problems encountered in the early program but that was about it. Websites devoted to the SS John W. Brown, SS Jeremiah O’Brian, and SS Hellenic Victory all have extensive onboard photos to help with details 5) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/55-17/ch3.htm is a webpage that has extensive info on cargo rigging, it will be my primary reference for rigging. In the next post I’ll give an overview of what comes in the kit
  2. With a stack like that I bet she rolled even at the pier!
  3. Thanks for all the info Lou, especially for the 50 cal photos - I wish I had found those. I suspected the #3 photo was on a 4-piper but the Royal Navy cap on the sailor threw me until I recalled the destroyers for bases deal in 1940 or 41. This photo must have been taken when the RN crew was taking one of the ships out for shakedown right after the transfer because the RN heavily modified those ships as soon as they could to better suit them as convoy escorts and I'm sure the 50 cals were craned off right after the 4 torpedo tubes mounts!
  4. Jim, your note about the hanging shot racks got me thinking so I did some looking around online. The Connie as currently fitted out in Boston does not have any shot racks evident on the gun deck, maybe they thought they would be trip hazards for the tourists. The full scale mockup of Connie's gun deck at the US Navy Museum in the Washington Navy Yard likewise lacks shot racks. Soooo . . . I googled "USS Constitution shot racks" and the first thing to pop-up was a discussion thread from here at good old MSW titled "Cannon Shot Stowage on Deck" from Mar of 2015, if you look at the last post in the discussion someone put in a link to another discussion thread from someone who was building the Revell kit and had similar questions to yours and what he found out about them. hope this helps
  5. Thanks Lou. That is an interesting photo of the 50 cal in action. Now that you point that out, that must have been a tough location to work. When researching photos I tend to focus on what I'm after (in this case .50-cal info) and miss some of the other interesting stuff in the same frame!
  6. .50 Cal Machine Guns Once the Liberty production line got into full swing by late 1942 their light anti-aircraft weapon suite consisted of 6-8 of the excellent 20mm Oerlikon guns: The kit provides very nice cast Oerlikons: Like everything else weapon-related, the Stephen Hopkins was built too early in 1942 to get the good stuff, her light AA guns were water-cooled .50 cal machine guns from the USN which had plenty laying around since they were rapidly abandoning them in favor of the Oerlikons. When I saw the kit’s 20mm guns I thought it would be easy to convert them to .50 cals by thickening the barrel to represent the water jacket, replacing the cylindrical ammo magazine with the “tombstone” one which was unique to the .50 cals and changing the shoulder rests to the 50 cal grips that looked like bicycle handlebars. The only problem was that I was unable to find any photo evidence that shipboard .50 cals were ever mounted with a shield (unlike today where virtually every USN ship has multiple .50 cals with shields). All of the .50 cal mounts in early 1942 were variations of the “Tora Tora Tora” mounts that were on the battleships during the Pearl Harbor attack, they looked like this: So I needed to scratch build them. I made the pedestals and “C” shaped mounts from strip and rod: The details like the cooling water hoses, water tank, magazine, elevation crank were wire, wood and plastic, the gunsights are Northstar PE valve hand wheels: And the finished product after painting ( I decided to paint the mounts Navy Gray since that is how they would have been shipped and, like any shipyard, they would not have been repainted if it wasn't spelled out in the contract):
  7. Congrats on reaching the end, it took you about the same amount of time as it did to build the real ship!
  8. Wonderful work. You have got me thinking about this kit - I don't have the room for a fully rigged and cased sailing ship of this size but the hull is so nice it could look great on it's own with just stub masts, sort of like Model shipway's Confederacy kit. Please keep the posts coming....
  9. Amazing metal and sail work and your ice sheathing passes the dreaded close-up shot with flying colors!
  10. Incredible work, and par for the course for you...
  11. Very nice build Reed. Before moving to NC my wife and I had many great weekends on the Eastern Shore over 20 years, and like you, I became interested in the skipjacks. I'm currently about 80% done with the Willie l. Bennett kit from Model Shipways, probably the best kit I've found for any build, wonderful directions and plans - learned a lot. I remember reading somewhere that the skipjack design was so successful because it could be built by house carpenters -- not needing any experience with the complex curves associated with most hulls. Not sure if that is true but it sounds good. Great job on the winding machine
  12. Deck Details Although I have been spending a fair amount of time on the build lately there isn’t much to show for it since it has all been detail work with small strip plastic and wire. Anyway, the steam and fireman piping/shielding is all in, the fire stations installed (most are on the port side), and about 80 pad eyes are almost all in along the hatches and in the waterways. The pad eyes will be important when rigging the booms but since I'm not sure which ones I will be using at this point they are all pinned to the deck for additional strength. The fireplugs and hose racks are from BlueJacket’s catalog, the fireplug hand wheels are from Northstar and the rest is scratch. I’ll probably fabricate the 50-cal machine guns next.
  13. Steam Piping As I said in my first post for this log, one of the techniques used in the design of the Liberty ships to reduce costs and simplify building was to run piping outside the skin of the ship, mainly steam and fireman lines. The steam lines ran along the stbd side of the ship and the fireman lines along the port. Because any exposed piping on the main deck would be a high risk of getting squashed by a load of cargo, they were protected either by “fencing” along side the cargo hatches, or by overhead shielding in other areas such as between the hatches and the pipe runs to the winches and windlasses: I used small strip plastic to imitate both types-here the hatch on the left has the fencing: And here both types are done: I’ve still have a little more of the steam piping to go and then I’ll tackle the fireman - which will look the same except there will also be fire plugs and hose racks.
  14. Hey Jack, nice to see another Lib build underway, I've got a build log here for BlueJackets 1/192 scale Liberty. If you are interested in some onboard photos of the Brown this site has been a big help for me in detailing: http://www.geoghegan.us/brown/JWB-walkaround.htm best of luck
  15. Thanks Nic, You have put out a great kit that would look super out of the box, but at this scale, and with plenty of online photo references, it is irresistible for an OCD type like me to detail to it the point of absurdity!
  16. Warping Engine The Lib ships had a steam-powered engine on the after deck that was used to drive two capstan heads which were used to take the slack out of mooring lines or even to pull the ship into a pier if no tugs were available (the same thing could be done by the anchor windlass up forward). It was a simple two-step reduction gearing. Interesting feature was that there was no crankshaft - the piston rods were connected to the outer edges of two discs on the outside of the bedplate. The kit provides a simple drum winch of britannia metal to serve as the warping engine. It is a little under scale for height and I thought I might be able to scratch build something more realistic. Here is the the kit and what I started out with: Here’s after the gears (from a bag of old watch parts) , guards and shaft have been added: And the finished product with the shaft supports. The capstans are after market from the Bluejacket catalog. The kit provided slightly smaller ones which I had planned to use but then I got careless while sanding them and squeezed one out of round too badly to repair, I forgot just how soft britannia can be. Here it is installed on the model with the canted fairleads in place:
  17. schooner

    HMS King George V 1943

    Wonderful work - would be very impressive at 1:200 scale or larger but at 1:350 it is awesome.
  18. Aft Hatches With the installation of the mizzen mast, the hatches and their winches all the major pieces are now in place:
  19. Nr 2 & 3 Hatches The rest of the big items for the other forward hatches are in place.
  20. Tom, I just came upon your build - nice work! Are the carronades you are using the ones that came with the kit or are they aftermarket?
  21. Main Deck I’ll fit out the main deck working fore to aft and bigger to smaller. Hatch Nr1 has the big pieces in place:
  22. Thanks John! And thanks for all the likes Lifeboats The kit provides boats in britannia with laser cut inserts for the thwarts. I decided to show the boats with their canvas boat covers in place. I used a piece of wire as the internal brace for the covers. I tried to make the covers out of tape but that did not work very well so I used diluted white glue brushed onto tissue paper -you can see it one one of the boats here (it dries almost transparent): After trimming and painting I was satisfied with the “canvas” look of them. Here they are rigged in place: I’ll add coiled up monkey lines later but they are real dust magnets so I’ll wait to the end of the build for those. This finishes up the deck house except for the railings. Now it’s time to move to the main deck and start making this look like a cargo ship.
  23. Thanks Kevin Boat Davits The kit provides britannia davits. I had planned to drill out the tops and insert 1/16” split rings as the attachment point for the upper block of the boat falls and the span wire that runs between the davit pairs but there was not enough material (room) up there to support drilling a hole big enough for a split ring to run through. I thought about flattening the tops with a pair of pliers to provide more drilling surface but I was worried that the metal would become too brittle. Looking through my parts locker I found my stash of .75mm Backstay Eyebolts from Model Shipways. Although I have never used them for their intended purpose they have been invaluable every time I needed to anchor a small eye. They will work with a #77 drill bit which is about the smallest I have. There was enough room to put them in place: The line handling gear associated with the davits consisted of a T-bitt and a small line reel for each davit: The kit shows both items on the plans but does not provide any material or mention them in the instructions - just an oversight I guess. The T-bitts were easily fabricated out of plastic rod and wire for the cross piece. I also drilled them for pinning to the deck since they will be under tension. The reels were a little more work. They are quite small so 1/192 scale aftermarket line reels would be much too big. I have some 1/350 scale PE reels that would have worked but I did not have enough to build 8 so I ended up making them out of rod with sheet plastic supports: Here is everything in place: When I rig the davits I’ll snub the inboard end of the falls around the T-bitt and then pass it under the reel, draw up the slack and glue it in place. I’ll have to finish the STBD side and then fit out the lifeboats.
  24. Nic, could you explain, or post a pic, of what you mean by a 4" Grinder? It certainly seems to make quick work of hull shaping.
  25. Congratulations! Your work looks like you spent 4 years on it, not 4 months.

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