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Keith Black

USS Tennessee

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Greetings

 My name is Keith Black and I'm new to the NRG. My reason for joining is that I'm currently restoring a model of the steam frigate USS Tennessee; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Tennessee_(1865) I'm pretty confident the model was built between 1895 and 1905 by someone with first hand experience of the Tennessee (possible former crew member)

 I came to be caretaker of this model when I purchased it several years ago off eBay. As you can imagine all the rigging was shot (rigging has since been removed) and at some point the model had became a toy with the expected results (broken and missing pieces)

 I've not been a modeler till now but I'm getting lots of OJT. I'm desperately trying to do both the model and modeler justice by not putting too much of my stamp in the restoration process. I've spent the better part of three years looking and the model and doing research before starting restoration. But most importantly, I am saving it from the rubbish bin. 

 Pictures of the steam frigate Tennessee seem to be rare. The easy ones are at the two at the Navy docks in Florida and Brooklyn. The one at Brooklyn is during refitting and the one at Florida is so small, any detail is almost impossible to see.

 If anyone has a link to other photographs or information please provide, I'll be eternally grateful.  

I'll post a couple of pics if someone is interested though I'm somewhat hesitant to do so if fear of having done something wrong, as they say, ignorance is bliss. I think it will be about six months till I'm ready to start rigging.

 The period of combined sail and steam is fascinating to me and I look forward to striking up conversations with like minded folks. 

Thank you in advance for any suggestions and links...........KB

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mtaylor   

Indeed, what Frolick asked about pictures.  And do consider doing a restoration log in the Scratch Build area.  There's lots of good people here that might be able to help you with information, etc.

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post-27354-0-83532100-1482841672_thumb.jpgI'll post pics shortly. I failed to mention the scale is 1:120. If there's fault with the original modeler it was his lack of maintaining scale which has lead me to think that that the model may have been created somewhere other than the US?? I'll leave that to discussion. I've tried to correct that by reducing the size of the cannon. I fought with this battle with myself for months. If all the original cannon and carriage had been there, I probably would have used them for the sake of originality. But because I would have had to make 50% of both for total complement I chose to go with smaller guns and off the shelf carriages (though I've had to modify them to make them work) As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, shortly. Thank you for making me feel welcome......KB

post-27354-0-28614700-1482841755_thumb.jpg

post-27354-0-36605400-1482841795_thumb.jpg

Edited by Keith Black
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Talos   

I have these few, and in much higher resolution than these pictures. An example of the full-size is located after the Imgur link the gallery is in. Lots of details of the deck fittings.

 

f05rHJQ.jpg

 

http://imgur.com/a/Rj7xn

 

https://www.history.navy.mil/bin/imageDownload?image=/content/dam/nhhc/our-collections/photography/images/NH%2072000/NH%2072844&rendition=original

Edited by Talos

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 Talos, I can not thank you enough but, these images raise more questions than answers as far as the original modeler and what relationship he had with the Tennessee if any? The model I have is loose interpretation at best of the actual Tennessee. Is that a problem or just my head saying it is after years of searching for answers, drawing conclusions based on very limited information, and setting a course of restoration based on that data. 

 What a glorious ship the Tennessee was, I wish someone would build a model of her that would do justice to her, what I have does not.  

 Thank you again Talos, I can't emphasize enough how important these images are to me, you've opened these old eyes. 

 Trouble with camera, trouble attaching photos (my end, not a site issue) I wait on my dear wife to awaken and help guide me...........KB 

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Glad that trying to load a couple of stinking photos wasn't trying to disarm a nuclear devise or we would have all gone up in smoke. Sorry for the quality of the pictures posted, hopefully I'll be able to address that issue in the near future and I'll be able to post better..........KB

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mtaylor   

Keith,

 

All the cannon would have been the same size as the armament list on Wikipedia shows what she carried.  

 

Armament:
2 × 8-inch (203-mm) rifles
2 × 100-pounder (45.5-kg) guns
1 × 60-pounder (27.2-kg) guns
18 × 9-inch (229-mm) smooth bore guns

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MT

 Not sure as I believe Wiki in this case as there were 18 cannon ports on the top deck and 20 on the second deck. This is what the model represents and is also what pictures of the Tennessee indicate. The gun information provided by Wiki maybe for the USS Madawaska which was refitted and renamed the Tennessee unless cannon were not designated permanent positions but shuttled to positions as action might require? 

 The top deck cannon barrel length made by the modeler are a little over two inches which at 1:120 would be 20 plus feet. My research indicates that the barrel length for the 9 inch guns would have approximately 13 feet. I used what barrels were salvageable from the lower guns ( right at 1.25 inches in length) to added with carriages to make the top deck guns. I have to make 5 barrels to give the upper deck it's full complement of 18 cannon. But pouring over the photos provided by Talos (thank you again) I don't see neat rows of cannon lining both rails. 

 I'm taking your advise and going over to the scratch build section and asking feedback as I've put further restoration on hold till I get input from those folks on their thoughts on going forward with the project, thanks.............KB  

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mtaylor   

Keith,

 

From my 1854 Constellation build, it had 3 different size cannon so that was not unusual.  Considering that the most forward ports probably weren't filled and used as bridle ports, that still leaves a bunch of ports with what Wiki says.  Wikipedia isn't the most accurate source.. but a good starting point. 

 

During the refit, did they add ports?   There's also the problem that in that period, they often did not fill all ports with guns.  Also, they'd plan one setup and not finish it.  For example, Constellation was supposed to get 2 100-pounders midships so they opened up the area between the two center ports on each side.  Then, never installed the cannon.  Connie's armament changed out also during and after the Civil War.  

 

Interesting problems but it appears you're on top of it.

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mtaylor   

Ah.... I see.  That probably explains the Wiki list then.   If I were a betting man, the 2 100-pounders were probably pivot guns as was the 60 pounder.  They did mix things up abit at times on the main gundeck so it's possible the 8" and 9" were in the ports.    

 

So after the refit?  <shrugs>  I'm not sure where to go for info...  A quick Google goes no where fast on this...

 

I wish I could be more help but I'm not sure where else there might be info.  

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Mark

 One of my more valuable sources of information has been models built by folks like yourself. Where as those models may not be the Tennessee, they provide invaluable information on how things were done immediately before, during, and after the time period between 1869 and 1886. Also, those models provide a guide post for my efforts in the restoration process. 

 Going to the pictures Talos provided, one of the 100 pounders is seen forward of amidships. At least that's what I think it is? 

 Thank you Mark and all of you for your efforts telling the tale and preserving the history of sail and the first forays into mechanical propulsion.........KB 

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Talos   

Tennessee, as refit, had a gundeck of 9" Dahlgrens. The two 8" rifles are converted smoothbore XI-inch Dahlgrens and were placed fore and aft on pivots. You can see the aft pivot rifled Dahlgren in the picture of the band mustered with their helmets on and the saber drill. Four 80-pdr converted breechloading Parrotts were in the broadside ports, two per side. She also carried four spar torpedoes and four Hotchkiss 1.5" breechloaders.

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 Thank you Talos.

 Because the scaling of the model is so mismatched, I'm just not sure a US modeler/former crew member would have done this taking into account the amount of time required for an individual to complete the build. Everything is hand carved including the single blocks and only single blocks were used, no deadheads or doubles. I'm thinking maybe this model was made in Hong Kong during a port visit? What think ye?...........KB

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Talos   

 Thank you Talos.

 Because the scaling of the model is so mismatched, I'm just not sure a US modeler/former crew member would have done this taking into account the amount of time required for an individual to complete the build. Everything is hand carved including the single blocks and only single blocks were used, no deadheads or doubles. I'm thinking maybe this model was made in Hong Kong during a port visit? What think ye?...........KB

 

I could see that being the case, sure.

 

This might help with scaling the guns, it's a diagram of the space the different guns need. For your purposes, the IX-inch Dahlgrens are on the gun deck, the 8" converted rifles are the XI-inch iron carriages, and the 80-pdr Parrott breechloaders are the 100pdrs on this.

post-14867-0-43598500-1482882771_thumb.png

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Talos   

I decided to annotate one of the pictures of Tennessee with the guns that are visible. This looks to be the armament configuration mtaylor gave, missing the two extra larger Parrotts it had at other times.

post-14867-0-64307300-1482889965_thumb.jpg

Edited by Talos

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Talos 

 If in fact the the Tennessee model in my care is of Oriental origin it would possibly explain the following...

 1) Model's wheel is in the open, not under cover.

 2) Model provides neither binnacle nor telegraph engine controls. 

 3) Hatch arrangement and style not in accordance with pictorial evidence supplied by yourself.

 4) No top deck opening and ladder way to lower deck nor deck space to allow for said. 

 5) Model has a observation bridge greatly out of proportion to the actual.

 6) Afore mentioned cannon size and location.

 The above would explain an Oriental origin as only the crew would have knowledge of the actual layout between the railings of the ship where as the ship's hull and rigging are in plain view and would have been rendered with more accuracy. A generalized deck arrangement could/would have been used because of the lack of firsthand observation. 

 If in fact this model is a sailors souvenir from the Orient I feel I have much more latitude in the restoration process. I care for the model whatever it's origin. As I said before, steam frigates of that era fascinate me, funnel and sail are such a beautiful combination.

 The USS Tennessee was renamed on May 15th, 1869 just five days after the golden spike was driven home on May 10th, 1869. 1869 is special to my dear wife and I as our house was built in 1869. We live and breath that year in history everyday as we patter about. 

 I can not thank you enough Talos for your efforts in providing information, if ever I can return the favor, please ask........KB

 

PS....Deadeyes, not deadheads. Wasn't the Deadheads a band from the 70's  :champagne-2:

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Talos   

That definitely sounds to me like someone from shore doing a model. The parts he'd be able to see would be pretty accurate, the parts he can't, including the deck fittings and birds-eye view of the bridge, would be much less or absent entirely, The guns make sense too, the gunports would be a lot more visible than the guns (or lack thereof) in them. Then of course the usual exaggeration in details and proportions from an amateur (as in not a naval architect)'s hands. It's a very neat model. :)

 

I'm glad I can help in any small way. I love the ships and the design and history of them, so doing the research was fun for me. I don't mind it!

Edited by Talos
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Canute   

Interesting stuff. The screw sloops are an area needing more study..

 

P.S. The Deadheads were the overall name for fans and followers of the Grateful Dead, a psychedelic era fusion rock band of the 60's thru 90s. Great jam band. Usually applied to the group who followed the band from show to show.

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 Thank you Talos, that's very kind of you. 

 If you notice in the closeup photo I posted, the inside rails have vertical alternating types of wood, light and dark. This is purely a decorative feature and in no way represents the actual Tennessee. This would have been a real pain in the behind to do for decoration purposes only unless the builder was trying to enhance an area in which they limited amount of knowledge if any. "If I can't make it accurate, I'll make it fancy" and if this is in fact a souvenir, then "fancy" probably found a more willing market........KB

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Ken

 The screw frigate USS Wampanoag (renamed the USS Florida on May 15th, 1869, the same day the Tennessee was renamed) is another interesting example from that era.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Wampanoag_(1864) 

 I'm amazed at the brevity of service of these ships. It had to be a costly period for not just the US, but navies around the globe as all were going from sail to mechanical driven vessels.

 I bet it was good business to be a scrapper during this period. The scrapyards is another area that would be fun and interesting to explore in detail........KB

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I know I have the space to create one top deck companionway to the lower deck. How would you guys go about representing the opening without cutting into the deck? Paint a flat black rectangle the size of the opening and be done with it?..........KB

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tlevine   

You mentioned initially that you are restoring this model.  Now you are talking about changing the model to match a known ship.  Looking at the model in question, I believe it was never meant to be an accurate scale model of any specific ship.  It is a souvenir or folk art model, probably made in the Far East.  If this is a restoration, then do just that...restore it to how it was when purchased, regardless of accuracy.  I am in the process of doing the same thing for a friend who wants his deceased father's clipper ship model restored.  You will learn valuable skills which could be used on a future, historically accurate model.  If your intention is to create an accurate representation of Tennessee then the only thing you might be able to save is the hull.  I do not mean to put a damper on your enthusiasm but you will find that this is a big project and I would hate to see you abandon it because it is more complicated than you expected initially.

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Toni

 The name, USS Tennessee, was written on paper (very small printing) and glued to both sides of the bow and maybe the stern. The bow for sure, the stern was illegible but a paper label was there. I'm 100% sure it's a representation of the Tennessee, just not a very accurate one thus the thoughts about it being a possible souvenir.

 I'm not changing it to be a particular ship as that's already determined, it's a model of the steam frigate USS Tennessee. What I am doing is making necessary replacements to scale that match the hull and mast. Instead of reproducing lost cannon to an inaccurate scale, I'm taking the cannon from the original lower deck ports, putting them in the correct scale carriage and placing them topside. Two of the three hatches covers have been lost. Instead of coping the hatch type that remains twice and duplicate another inaccuracy, why not make three correct hatch covers and remove the remaining inaccurate one? And if I'm going to remove the one remaining hatch cover, why not try to create at least one (if not two) companionway to the lower deck?  

 If I were 100% positive this model was a US made piece of folk art, i wouldn't have done anything to it except replace the rigging. But I don't believe that to be the case. Folk art is simple (we live in a 150 year old house surrounded with antiques and folk art) please note the close up picture and note the inside of the rails. That isn't simple by any means, hence my shying away from it being  a "folk art" piece.

 But as a stated earlier, this had become a toy in it's later life. Pieces were broken (I've fixed the majority of those) and pieces (not just one or two) went missing.

 I turn 70 in March, I have patience. I love history, I love to create, I love to restore things (a hobby from another life was restoring prewar English and American sports cars) I love to piddle away while my cat sleeps in the chair next to me. I've made the commitment to finish this project, if I'm unable to do so it will be because my ship has sailed, literally.

 Thank you for your concern, I appreciate that. Don't fear putting a damper on my enthusiasm, I've got about two hundred hours in this project thus far, I've got another six to nine months of work to do before I'm able to start rigging. I've never rigged a ship before so I'll need lots of help when I reach that stage. And I'm a realist. 

 Again, thank you Toni..........KB

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Volume 1 of Canney's "Old Steam Navy" has material on Tennessee and her predessor Madawasca including a lines drawing. The hull of this model bears little resemblance to the hull of the actual ship. It would seem that the builder of the model had a distorted perspective of the actual vessel like some of the early paintings of Western warships by Japanese artists.

 

Roger

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 Hey Roger, thanks a ton for the heads up on the book! I've bookmarked it and plan on ordering shortly.

 I agree with your assessment of the hull, another foot would help tremendously. Unless you've seen something I haven't, the basic hull and funnel configuration of the model matches only that of the Tennessee. At least that's my thought having researched all the US steam frigates and matching them against the model. Believe me when I say I tried very hard to find another one that made more sense.

 I've owned this model for slightly over four years and I did a lot of looking before I started the restoration process in ernest. Another fly in the ointment, the Tennessee underwent several refits. Do photographs exist that were taken after each refit? I hope the answer (or least some of the answer) is provided in Vol 1.

 Thank you again for the info on the book..........KB

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Kieth

 

I'm not doubting that it is a model of the Tennessee. I think that the builder had no idea what the hull actually looked like.

 

The book includes quite a bit of text regarding this class of high speed cruisers, their condemnation by the Navy and the rebirth of some of them as large, slower frigates. Specifically, the book includes a lines drawing and inboard profile of the Tennessee. It does not include refit by refit photos.

 

Roger

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