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CharlieZardoz

Ship model kits which may or may not be based historical vessels

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Hi everyone! I wanted to start a new topic dealing with a few weird kits I've found in my research which sort of look like they've been based on actual plans from some sort of archive yet I can't seem to find any concise evidence that they existed or are just made up by the kit companies.   My thoughts are that a lot of these older kits were made by some ship builder decades ago and then sold to the kit companies who over time lost track of what plans they were based on.  But I am convinced that for most of these listed some real set of plans existed, possibly for a generic unidentified ship since I have to imagine it being a lot easier to make a model based on a historical plan than just made up in ones head. So this forum is an attempt to try and determine which plans (if any) were used for these models as a basis.

 

First up are two kits by Mantua HMS Sharke and HMS Shine. Sharke looks vaguely like the plan from the national maritime museum and Shine looks sort of like the armed Bermuda sloop yet has two masts.

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Edited by CharlieZardoz

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Last (for now) we have the Golden Star by Mantua. Again lets have fun with this, a bit of detective work could help determine the intent of these modeler's of yore.  Also feel free to contribute other kits that you may be curious about though a few have been discussed in prior postings :)

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My favorite in this type of discussion is AL's Constellation.  Billed as the 1797 frigate.  It's not.  The hull is from the 1854 Sloop of War (and are reasonably accurate) and the deck plans, etc., come from the way she sat in the Baltimore harbor for years.  For more info, read "Fouled Anchors....." here's the PDF: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB0QFjAAahUKEwi6963K_ZzIAhVDrIAKHfi3CyI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dtic.mil%2Fcgi-bin%2FGetTRDoc%3FAD%3DADA241916&usg=AFQjCNF9BStwpyR2ty4lvLp4zvFc_tpyTA&bvm=bv.103627116,d.eXY

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That's true Ajax should be a 3rd rate not a frigate like they show.  I also think Mamoli made up a kit as the HMS Surprise and nothing to do with the historic ship but the latter mamoli kits were all junk anyway.  But like I said some of these kits may have origin stories elsewhere and are then bought by the model companies, repackaged into something totally different and given a name a fake back story (like AL's Independence).  While I am sure quite a few of them are total fiction a few that are listed above like the Resolution, or something like Mantua's Peregrine Galley do look like they were based on something historical so I'm just trying to track down what they were actually meant to be.

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I think many are based on the drawings Chapman.   The HMS Unicorn is based on them and company's history for her says that he designed it in 1700... A bit of a stretch... but it looks to be a mix of a late 1700's English "Unicorn" and the French "Licorne" as for awhile she was listed in some records as the translated "Unicorn".

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"Shine looks sort of like the armed Bermuda sloop yet has two masts."

 

Entirely possible.  It wasn't unknown for a cutter or sloop hull to be remasted and rigged as a schooner or brig.

 

BTW The smallest fully rigged brig I can find reference to was only 50' overall and it worked for a long time as a merchantman around Britian.

Edited by grsjax
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The Hms Unicorn is based off of an admiralty plan (or at the very least a convincing reconstruction) for the Lyme class frigate of 1748 and considered one of the first "true" frigates. But here is an example of a kit where the source is identifiable and at least there is some rationale as to it's creation though you may be right Mark a lot of these kits may be based on Chatham drawings as well. As for Constellation I am at a loss as to why no one has built a better kit of the sloop of war she gets no love, lol.

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There has been so much controversy about Constellation's appearance that it isn't that surprising there has been no kit of her.  For years there was a group pushing for her inclusion in the 'original' frigate club, in competition with Constitution.  If the link above (which didn't work for me) is the 'Fouled Anchors' article read it and you will find this group forged documents in their attempt to legitimize their claims.  Part of the work of this group included remaking the hull into a 1790s frigate.  In doing so, they butchered up the hull.  Now that it has been settled that the vessel currently at Baltimore is the 1853 vessel, the curators are trying to restore her to that appearance.  With all that going on, possibly manufacturers were reluctant to invest in a vessel in flux.  There is a kit by one of the European companies, but I'm not sure how faithful it is to any version of the ship.

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I think the controversy is largely settled now.  And the way the she looks in Baltimore now is a lot closer to her original appearance than ever before so really I imagine a kit could be made using original plans and reference her current appearance. I do believe that the majority of model builders who sell kits to the companies have a personal preference to ships in that 1750-1810 bracket which is of course considered the high age of sail and anything after sort of gets the shrug lol. :)

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"a personal preference to ships in that 1750-1810 bracket"

Well, I do, fer shure.  There is probably a marketing bonus if you can say 'the famous ship of the war of 1812' rather than 'the last purely sailing warship built to use up excess timber stocks in 1853'.

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Part of the problem with the Constellation is the some drawings were burned (allegedly) when the Brits burned Washingtion  and then others were destroyed by that group in Baltimore.  No one is really sure what happened to all of them.

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Ah now that's being harsh. What did the HMS Diana do other than sail to Egypt and get sold to the dutch?  Doesn't make her any less of an impressive model but one could easily rationalize a USS Congress 1841 kit or USS Hartford both with very relevant historical significance and would make equally excellent models.  I think (without trying to sound rude) that there is a bit of prejudice attached to the last age of sail kinda like the age where all the majesty went away (no more figureheads, gildings all that piratey looking stuff) and things got weird (paddles, smoke stacks and various Frankenstein ideas). I mean one cannot argue the works of art that British ship of the lines like Victory or Vanguard were/are and how they make gorgeous models but maybe I just have a thing for the underdog I happen to find all that 19th century tech fascinating as well.  :)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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Anyone care to offer a proper explanation of what the Chatham drawings actually are? I think the Unicorn which I posted above is a Chatham draught though wondering if there is a book that has a collection of said works. :)

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You mean Chapman?   I recall reading somewhere, he wasn't so much a designer but for lack of a better word, a manager of a shipyard....???   He was well traveled for his time and made lots of drawings of the ships he saw and apparently, when he could, copied drawings.  His book is basically types of ship. I really have no idea if they're accurate or not. 

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Dover Publications did a volume of Chapman's draughts.  The Plates are at a reduced scale, but the printing is quite clear.  The title is 'Architectura Navalis Mercatoria'.  His complete name is Fredrik Henrik Af Chapman.  The Volume was first printed in 1768.

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Thanks ill look into it (wonder where I got Chatham from lol). With any luck some of those kits above will be represented. More books to buy then yay! :)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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That's the one Charlie.

 

For what it's worth, the Unicorn and the Lyme were members of the Lyme class and the first "true frigates" as has been said earlier.  Ian, John and many other Unicorn kit builders and I have done quite a bit of research.  I purchased the Lyme plans, and the plans in the Chapman book above for the Unicorn match up quite well.  So, I think that the Chapman plans for the Unicorn are pretty accurate.

 

Where I think the Corel kit fails is in the various details - particularly with the deck plan and the very narrow waist.  Ian and others have suspected that Corel sorta merged the details of later period ships with the Lyme class, coming up with a model that is not particularly accurate.  That being said, with a little research, I think the Corel kit can be improved to come up with a historically accurate Lyme class vessel.

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Mike: Just bought the book off amazon for a whopping $9 ;)

 

Daves: I do agree that most of the kits sold by the model companies are hardly well detailed and quite a few are fictitious, however I do believe that many are based on some sort of plan or draught that the original model builder used as a basis.  It's my strong suspicion that model kit companies function in the past kinda like they do now where a company would contract a model builder to build a ship or chose from a bunch of ships already built they would ask for something like "a British schooner from the 18th century" or "French cutter from the 17th century" or something like that.  Once they got the model they would likely want to give it a name (regardless of whether it's historical or not) and some sort of back story. Add to the 50 years and a few change of hands and the intent of the original model maker is all but forgotten but a little research and a keen eye and I think one can track down what resources were used.

 

My want in this forum post is partly for my own research since many of these kits are small ships which I've considered building somewhere down the line and for me at least I'd like to invest the time in models which have a historical counterpart. As with Sultana I plan on doing thorough research on each model ship I build so as to know as much as I can about the ship's history and detailing, etc.  Doing research I was able to track down (impostors) like AL's Independence which is really just the Halifax slightly redressed, or Constructo's Enterprise which appears to be off the draught of the Vixen with a few details added.  But research can also help determine ships that were based on actual draughts, the Revenue cutters Alert and Ranger which are unnamed in Chapelle's books, or Caldercraft's Bader ex Pitt the admiralty draught is available online, or The Albatros or Harvey which are based off of the same plans found in Chapelle's book on Baltimore Clippers.  Same as what Mike said above about the Unicorn a little research led me to the Chapman book I just ordered so in the end whether or not I build any of them I'm learning more about period ships so that now I can just look at a model like Mamoli's Blue Shadow and know it to be fantasy. :)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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There is a (Swedish?) website with extensive info on Chapman, including high res of his drawings (I think it is Chapman.net). Official site, I think part of a museum.

 

Chapman was quite a character and worth reading up on.

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Frederick Henrik af Chapman was one of the first ship designers, if not the first, to base ship design on scientific principles. He is thought a great deal of, not only here in Sweden.

 

There are some beautiful models of some of his ships, many in large scale, in Stockholm Maritime Museum. Most of his ships were good sailers although that, unfortunately, couldn't have been said for the Royal yacht Amphion which he also designed and which by all accounts didn't live up to expectations. He was much better at warships. Amphion's stern and cabin are preserved and on display in the museum. Besides modernising Sweden's offshore fleet, he built her inshore galley fleet and also many of the dockyard buildings at Karlskrona naval base. These are still in existance, including the mast crane – a photo of which I seem to remember appeared on an MSW thread recently under, I think, 'Amazing Photographs'.

 

I have been meaning to get the Dover publication, but I do have another interesting book on Chapman. This is 'F.H. Chapman – the First Naval Architect and his Work', by Daniel G Harris. Harris is Canadian, but his wife is Swedish and he studied Chapman for much of his life. The book was first printed in 1989. I don't know if there have been subsequent revisions, but it is probably available second hand. It is a first class read if you are interested.

Edited by Stockholm tar

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That's the book, Charlie.  $9 is a pretty good price.

I read somewhere that the 'typical European kit' was meant to be displayed on a mantle as part of the decor and that the mix of woods was because wood tones were popular.  As long as it looked like a ship that was all that mattered.  The back story was concocted to attract the buyer in the store, not to fulfill any sort of historical accuracy.  To my mind, better to do your own research into a prototype that actually existed than waste time on those 'decorative' models.

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I see the website you mean Wayne, I could get lost in there lol 8) Thank you everyone for the explanation of Chapman I think I understand better now what he represents to ship history, pretty amazing stuff!  Swedish ships in general are pretty amazing, I've seen a few books, definitely do not get enough credit in their design and contribution to naval evolution.  And yeah I have quite a few ships planned to be built down the line so probably best to simply ignore these "decorative" models though I do have a spreadsheet of all model kits and their significance so if I do wind up finding some more information about them I'll post it on this forum :)

 

For example I can already see that Hunter was based on this Chapman drawing.

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Edited by CharlieZardoz
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Also just out of fun curiosity I found this one, the HMS Racehorse, which isn't based on the 1757 ship plans (of which there are none), but instead of the 1781 ship that was a purchase.  Also the scale 1:47 is an error since at 23" that would make the ship tiny and the draught appears to be over 100' probably closer to 75 or 96 scale even? :)

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I make the gundeck length to be something like 108 ft. on the draught.  Any length given for a model is likely to be from the tip of the bowsprit to the taffrail or tip of the boom, whichever is longer, so you know how much room you need on your mantle.  Sometimes they will call this length over all or O. A.  This is not a measurement ever used in the period and you won't find it on any document.

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Jbshan: yes I know what you mean completely, the Constitution is about 204' overall length but that was never really used in draught plans (connie being about 175' at gundeck).  And if we are talking mast end to mast end that's like 304' or something.

Daves: Long story short I have a spreadsheet with various ships that I would consider building over the coming years. Certain ship types I plan to build in groups for example the Sultana is a continental schooner from the 1760s. I don't plan on displaying my models static but grouped sailing together in action sequences using that fake water stuff. Other contemporaries to Sultana might be Halifax, Armed Virginia schooner, Marble Head or Chaleur stuff that's similar but also a bit different to contrast design and performance.  Each group on the spreadsheet has my top 5 interests like top 5 british frigates or american brigs, baltimore clippers or cutters or somesuch not that I expect to build all 5 but it gives me an idea of where I might be headed in the future and what to pick from. Now other than Ballahoo and Pickle there ain't many british schooners/sloops with actual famous names or kits thereof (that I know of anyways) so that's where the bunch I posted come into play. Maybe the Hms Alert or the Bermuda sloop or maybe one of the kits mentioned if I find they have a history that interests me. In the same way that I just found the Racehorse now i'm filled with all sorts of questions. Where was she purchased? Maybe an american ship like the London/Basilisk or Badger/Pitt? Maybe French or Dutch? I've learned so much about ships in just a years time and its digging like this which is helping me discover all sorts of fun facts about sailing ship history, design and development. Also alot of these old kits were in the 1980s model expo catalogue which has sentimental value to me as I read those magazines hundreds of times as a kid. And most likely I would only use the plans to scratch a model in the scale and detail I want but hey it saves me a few steps in the building process. So yeah thats the short explanation lol ;)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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There is wisdom in your words. I've always seen kits as just a practice tool for learning. Wooden ship model building is largely a scratch hobby though many of the newer kits offer much more precision then the old kit companies like sergal or dikar. Just today looking through the Peregrine galley and Royal Caroline kits realizing they are represented at wierd/incorrect scales and I think they even used the same hull frames. :P I will definitely look up those resources which will surely help me understand more of the history and yes I do understand sailing ships were not regimented like modern day ship classes are so even a "type" of vessel had many variations though I do believe researching those uniquenesses is very much part of the fun. Again appreciate the guidance :)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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