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USS Constitution by Force9 - Revell - PLASTIC - Revisiting the classic 1/96 kit

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Folks - Here is my rebuilt log of my Plastic Constitution build.  I've copied the entries over from another forum and I reserve the right to alter a few things to clean up previous errors:
 
 

I’ve had a Revell 1/96 USS Constitution fall into my stash at a very reasonable price (Overstock.com) and it seems appropriate to take it on in recognition of the upcoming anniversary of USS Constitution’s victory over HMS Guerriere on August 19.

 

I’ve been spewing forth much hot air in defense of the Michel Felice Corne paintings and their representation of the ship as she first burst into glory against HMS Guerriere, so I feel obligated to back up my tirades with action. I’ll try to make this version align very closely to what we see in these paintings commissioned by Captain Hull immediately after his victory

L1080753.JPG

(https://picasaweb.google.com/106997252788973852335/PEMMichelFeliceCorneGuerrierePaintings'>https://picasaweb.google.com/106997252788973852335/PEMMichelFeliceCorneGuerrierePaintings).

This does mean that I’ll set aside my Heller HMS Victory build for a time - I haven’t lost a bit of enthusiasm for that project - but I’ll apply what I learn in this new effort towards making that one better down the line.

 

Like many of us (most of us?) I’ve built this kit before... a few decades (or more) back. It seems to have been almost a rite of passage for anyone wanting to take ship modeling seriously. I’ll call that one the MK 1 version and it still exists in a dusty condition on a high shelf in the garage:

L1100085.jpg

 

L1050379.JPG

 

I was never happy with that earlier effort. Much has happened in the intervening years to improve my chances of making a more representative kit - most notably the proliferation of great information on the internet to inform my approach.

 

This venerable kit was originally issued back... well, back before some of us were born(!)... and I think it still holds up well. Certainly there is plenty of flash and injection moulding marks that we don't see in modern kits, but the kit still makes up into an impressive display as we can see in the various log entries across this forum.  It seems to be a copy of the 1/48 George Campbell plan model in the Smithsonian collection (http://www.modelshipgallery.com/gallery/misc/sail/constitution-48-sm/con-index.html'>http://www.modelshipgallery.com/gallery/misc/sail/constitution-48-sm/con-index.html) - which itself is a refinement of the famous Hull model built by the crew and presented to Captain Hull following his victory over Guerriere

L1080818.JPG

(https://picasaweb.google.com/106997252788973852335/PEMUSSConstitutionHullModel'>https://picasaweb.google.com/106997252788973852335/PEMUSSConstitutionHullModel).

We see plenty of similarities in the bow and stern between the models and the Revell color guide somewhat follows the original. So the question becomes - does this Revell kit align well to the configuration of the Constitution when she earned her “Old Ironsides” moniker against HMS Guerriere? Well, strictly speaking no... In fact, if built OOB it would not actually represent Constitution as she was configured in any of her wartime cruises. There is a critical difference between the historic model and her modern copy - the Hull model shows 15 gun ports on each side of her gun deck (although the forward most are a bit too far forward) and the Revell kit shows 16. The difference is explained by this journal entry from Frederick Baury - one of Constitution’s midshipmen:

 

21 Sep 1812  Carpenters cutting bridle ports in bows ‑‑ Lieutenant Morgan and Midshipman Taylor left on recruiting duty.

 

After returning to Boston following the battle, Isaac Hull resigned and command was handed over to the much despised William Bainbridge. He proceeded to make a few changes including the addition of “bridle ports” up forward to help in towing, anchoring, and to potentially serve as bow chaser positions. Unlike the guidance provided by the Revell instructions, these positions would not normally have had a gun mounted. If needed during a chase, a nearby 24-pounder would be hauled into one of these spots to lob a few shots and try for a lucky hit to take out a spar and slow down the prey. To that end Bainbridge made another change as outlined by Commander Tyrone Martin in his overview of Constitution’s armament:

 

Following his succession to command of the ship on 15 September 1812, Commodore William Bainbridge eliminated the 18-pounder, simplifying his ammunition loading and handling problem by dropping one caliber. The gun had been virtually useless, anyway, since the ship's bow structure was not well suited to the accommodation of a chase gun.

 

Bainbridge may have been a jerk of a human being, but he was an astute naval commander and he thought it made more sense to offload the 18 pdr chase gun and make room to store more 24 pdr ammunition for his main guns.

So the 16 gun ports and the spar deck bow chaser as provided in the kit could not co-exist. The easiest solution to bring things into alignment is to ditch the bow chaser and the two forward main deck guns and call it a day. You’d likely have the correct representation of Constitution’s configuration when she scored her victory over HMS Java. Since I am trying to show her during the battle with HMS Guerriere, I will preserve the bow chaser gun, but I will need to take the drastic step of filling in the forward bridle ports. 

 

If you want to represent her last war cruise under Charles Stewart, then you’ll have to revisit the carronades on the spar deck. Here again Commander Martin provides some insight:

 

[Charles Stewart] reduced the number of carronades to twenty and added two 24-pounder "shifting gunades" recently captured from the British by an American privateer. Designed by Sir William Congreve in 1814, each was 8' 6" long, but being of thinner barrel construction weighed only about 5000 pounds on carriage. The design was an attempt to combine the range of a long gun with the lighter weight of a carronade. The pair sat on carriages like the long guns, and it was expected that, since they were lighter, they could readily be shifted from side to side as combat required.

 

b7-3.jpg

 

 

Apparently Stewart had the two forward most and two aft most carronades removed and replaced with one each of the newfangled gunnades. I have no idea how these actually looked when mounted on a carriage, but it might be possible to find slightly over scale carronade barrels and mount them to the two gun carriages no longer needed on the main gun deck. Oh, and you’d also need to paint her with a yellow band - that is well documented.

 

Regarding the carronades... As represented in the kit with the wooden quoins, these would seem to be rather quaint. The carriages on the foredeck with their small trucks would also seem to be inappropriate for 1812. Certainly by the time of Trafalgar it would be more typical for a carronade to be mounted with a pin to the bulwark with trajectory controlled by an elevation screw. I think Karl Heinz Marquardt addresses these same concerns in his AOTS book since the restored ship has these outmoded versions still represented. I’ll optimistically try to modify all of the carronades to include the elevation screws and eliminate the funky rolling carriages on the foredeck.

 

Many folks get caught up in the various permutations of the stern gallery windows. Were there six or five?... or three or eight? The Hull model shows six, but the Corne paintings have five... I’m frankly not concerned either way. I assume there were many chances for the configuration to have changed across the years as different commanders supervised different refits within different time and budget limitations. Perhaps Hull and his crew replaced the six windows with only five after destroying the original gallery windows during their escape from Broke’s squadron (they axed out the windows and some of the transom to position guns to fire at their pursuers). Maybe there were always six and Corne got this wrong. Nobody knows the truth and we likely never will... I’m fine with working with the six depicted on the kit.

 

The rudder on this kit is a bit perplexing... It is moulded with wood grain without any copper plating represented. Hmmm... That doesn’t seem correct. I’ll ponder the idea of putting some of my extra styrene strips to work and setting that right.

 

Of course the kit provided plastic eyelets and rings are worthless - easily broken and a bit over scale. Those will be replaced with wire or PE versions. Somehow I managed to not break any of the plastic hammock cranes on my first effort all those years ago, but I’ll replace those with ones fashioned from brass micro-tubing and Jotika eyelets. Some of the thinner spars are also vulnerable to bending/breakage. I’ll try to shape some brass rod for replacements. I’ll need to carefully consider the moulded blocks - some may be usable or otherwise converted to usefulness. I suspect I’ll replace most with online purchases. The gun port lids will be omitted altogether - the Hull model and the credible paintings of the period (including the Corne series) don’t show them mounted (although the Hull model has a lid for the forward most ports).

 

The pre-formed ratlines, moulded deadeyes, and vacuum formed sails will not be utilized. ‘Nuff said. As for the accuracy of the rig represented in the kit... I am having trouble finding a stable representation of her complete masting and rigging layout. The 1817 Charles Ware diagram may be about the best, but as Marquardt points out it differs in some respects to other seemingly authoritative sources. It is also interesting to note that the Corne paintings are showing crows feet rigged... that is unique. At least it appears that the trysail mast (immediately abaft the mizzen) is authentic - records indicate that Isaac Hull had this added to allow better movement for the boom and gaff. The Hull model clearly shows it fitted as well. I’ll worry more about the rigging when I’m much closer to that phase, but in the meantime I’ll probably fork over the $60 bucks for the Bluejacket manual set and perhaps rely on that for guidance...

 

The biggest bugaboo in this kit is the multi-part decking. Ugh... The forums are full of attempts to mitigate the unsightly seams with various levels of success. Some folks just don’t worry about them at all and instead try to make the rest of the deck interesting enough to be distracting. I’ve even seen one modeler glue “battens” over them and pass them off as a “feature”. My first attempt was relatively successful in aligning the deck sections and eliminating any meaningful gap, but I was hesitant to fill and sand because I was trying to preserve the moulded wood grain detail. I was attempting to follow the “Les Wilkins” method of using a razor or low-grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of tan paint to reveal the base coat of black and highlight the grain (guidance that is also provided in the Revell instructions). I’ve since decided that the grain is a bit overdone at this scale and it’d be best to smooth everything down and use shades of paint and perhaps some artist pencils to impart the wood tones. Eliminating the seams is more important than preserving the grain.

 

There are many fine efforts out there... Here’s one that inspires - well known to those of us who prowl the web for impressive builds:

http://www.modelforum.cz/viewtopic.php?f=177&t=11091&sid=a22ea2a7adc8efe9b2fcffd0273bb134'>http://www.modelforum.cz/viewtopic.php?f=177&t=11091&sid=a22ea2a7adc8efe9b2fcffd0273bb134

Other useful online resources:

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/war1812/atsea/con-guer.htm'>http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/war1812/atsea/con-guer.htm

http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/46/46021.htm'>http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/46/46021.htm

http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/us_navy_pages/sailing_ships/constitution/uss_constitution.htm'>http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/us_navy_pages/sailing_ships/constitution/uss_constitution.htm

http://www.hazegray.org/features/constitution/'>http://www.hazegray.org/features/constitution/

http://navysite.de/ships/consttour.htm'>http://navysite.de/ships/consttour.htm

http://www.captainsclerk.info/'>http://www.captainsclerk.info/

 

Here are some of the modifications I hope to incorporate along the way:

Customized elements:

Fill in the forward Bridle ports.

Thicken the gunport sills.

Add a scratch built galley stove.

Show the anchor cable/messenger cable rigged on the gun deck.

Display Carronades with elevation screws.

Replace rolling carronade carriages with lug mounted versions.

Copper plating on the rudder.

Hammock Cranes fashioned from brass micro-tubing.

Brass Rod for delicate spars.

New capstan on spar deck (and gun deck).

 

Paint scheme (guidance from Corne paintings and Hull model):

Yellow ochre band ending up forward in a scalloped half-circle.

White trim on bow and stern details.

Red gallery windows. 

Red gunport sills/linings,

Green interior bulwarks on spar deck.

White bulwarks on the gun deck.

Green deck coamings/furniture on spar deck.

Yellow ochre lower masts with “natural” above.

Tops in Black.

Black bowsprit with “natural” jib boom.

 

Let the fun begin.

Edited by Force9

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The kit came packaged much better than I remember back in the day... The parts all seem undamaged on initial inspection.

 

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Might as well jump right in and start with the Bridle Ports:

 

I'll put in a bit of backing behind the ports to give a surface for the styrene sheet that will fill the gap.  

L1100098.JPG

L1100103.jpg

 

Next I'll insert some sheet carefully shaped to fit the openings to eliminate the ports.  

Then I need to lay on a very thin strip to continue the run of the upper wale line.

L1100110.JPG

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L1100109.JPG

 

 

Later I'll come back in with some filler and use a heavy grit (80) sandpaper to add some grain.  I've experimented a bit with this and it seems to work reasonably well on my test pieces.

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Well... They didn't call her Old Ironsides for nuthin'...

 

I've been building up the gun deck bulwarks:

 

Gun ports are lined with .080 x.156" Evergreen strip

Bulwarks are planked with .040 x .156" Evergreen strip

 

L1100127.jpg

 

L1100124.jpg

 

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Not particularly glamorous, but it will seem satisfying when all is completed.

 

And, as usual, I've peeled back a bit of the lower hull to reveal the stout framing of an American Heavy Frigate... 

 

L1100114.JPG

 

L1100115.JPG

 

L1100118.JPG

 

This does, however, pose a bit of a quandary... There is quite a bit of contention regarding the actual layout of Constitution's frames...

 

Karl Heinz Marquardt presents a "classic" frame layout in his AOTS book - double frames between the gun ports with single frames spaced apart in between.  Commander Tyrone Martin states in his writings that Joshua Humphries specified closely spaced frames - about two inches separation.  This historic photo from her 1873 refit would seem to agree.  We see the frames exposed after the outer planking has been stripped away:

 

0946021135.jpg

 

It is surmised that she did, in fact, have the diagonal riders fitted originally and they were removed in an earlier restoration. Her waist was also filled in and her spar deck bulwarks built up during an earlier refit which was supposed to stiffen her and introduce longitudinal strength - a thought shared by Lt. John Lord when he supervised the 1927- 1934 refit.  In reality, all this did was introduce about 16 tons of unneeded stress on her keel (all of which was removed in her most recent refit).

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Continuing along the theme of Old Ironsides

 

As usual, I've gone crazy with the hobby knife and peeled back a bit of the lower hull - this time to reveal the stout framing of an American Heavy Frigate.

 

I've gone ahead and used the 1875 photo as guidance and spaced my frames accordingly:

 

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Russ here at MSW confirms that the 1875 photo should be accurate.  Research confirms that the keel on Old Ironsides is original as well as most of the futtocks and flooring.  This would dictate the spacing of the frames for the life of the ship - even if the contours of the upper framing changed over the years.

 

The placement of my gash is not arbitrary - it is actually symbolic.  Captain Dacres testified in his court martial after the battle that "on the larboard side of the Guerrière there were about thirty shot which had taken effect about five sheets of copper down.."  This was most likely the result of Constitution's initial broadside which Captain Hull had held back until his ship was directly alongside his opponent at half-pistol shot range.  The blast fairly rocked Guerriere and sent "washtubs" of blood pouring down her hatches according to an eyewitness.  The damage below the waterline ultimately sealed her fate.  The prize crew couldn't stem the flow and Hull ordered her blown up the next morning.

 

My representation here should give folks an idea of just how much damage the Guerriere absorbed from the outset of the fight.

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Folks

 

I've got the port side bulwarks mostly complete - I'll add a ledge/shelf strip across the top and a few touch ups with a file are needed, but otherwise I'm pleased with the progress:

 

L1100143.JPG

 

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The candle in the background is not to set the mood... The dog managed to find a dead fish on the shoreline tonight and reeked to high heaven...  x20x    After a thorough bath in the garage washtub (the DOG, not me!), I needed to light the scented candle (orange flavored, I think) to overlay on the stench before proceeding to my project.

 

Thanks for looking

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Let's build some more of the model...

 

I now come to a decision point faced by better modelers than me... Do I include the iron bolt "rivet" details on the spar deck bulwarks?

 

You can see those on the post-refit spar deck 

 

L1090139.jpg

 

Looks like it was a PITA to remove them during the restoration effort:

 

Constitution2b.jpg

 

Are they authentic to 1812?  I have no clue... It is interesting that they were put back in the recent reconstruction of the spar deck.  It may be that there is something definitive that justifies including them... In truth I don't really care.  I've decided that it would be a nice way to pay homage to the restored ship while at the same time including some interesting detail to enhance my model.

 

Unfortunately there may be no way around the tedium that adding all these rivets will entail... Model railroaders have some decals of resin rivet strips that might work in a pinch, but it looks like a very expense solution.  Modelers on larger scale ships will add thousands of dots worth of thick paint or actually insert the gazillions of pins necessary to represent the bolt heads properly... 

 

Here was the approach I took:

 

L1100182.JPG

 

I used the thinnest strips of styrene in my inventory and punched in the bolt pattern using an inexpensive scribe tool purchased at the local hardware store. None of the three pin wheel tools I have had the right pattern I was after - so I did it one at a time. Amazing how sore your fingers can get after a few hundred of these... Once done, I simply flipped the strips over and affixed them to the bulwarks.  When completely dry, I came back along and trimmed the edges with a file.  All very neat.

 

L1100205.JPG

 

This has the added benefit of covering over the overdone wood grain detail moulded on the bulwarks of the kit as well as some obvious injection marks.

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Folks -

 

I should make mention of the sources I have been utilizing for my build...

 

Unfortunately there are no books out there that really satisfy me in every respect - some are certainly better than others, but all seem to have blatant flaws.  The AOTS book by Karl Heinz Marquardt is a well criticized case in point.  He seems to have invented a representation of the ship that is a hybrid between the 1927 restored version and various "historic" representations across the years cobbled together from old photographs, plans of other ships (USS President) and various paintings - not all of which trace to the War of 1812 glory years.  His omission of the Hull model is downright inexplicable.  In Mr. Marquardt's defense, it should be said that he had a much tougher job than McKay did with the AOTS for the HMS Victory.  There are many contemporary sources for the construction and refits of the Victory to reference - and ultimately McKay probably did very little archeological research beyond consulting the well researched restored version of the ship.  Same can be said for Longridge and his Anatomy of Nelson's Ships - it is essentially relying on the restored ship.  Old Ironsides is a more complicated situation - the restored ship is at most a faint glimmer of her War of 1812 configuration... Lt. John Lord seems to have restored her to an "historic" configuration without any deep effort to match her glory years... It seems like somebody tapped him on the shoulder, or otherwise whispered in his ear, and told him that he should focus on restoring the structural integrity of the ship and ensure that nobody had to come back and restore her again within their lifetimes... The historical "accuracy" was almost an afterthought with folks winking and nodding that she was brought back to her War of 1812 appearance.

 

Underlying all of this is the reality that we have very little extant historical documentation of her War of 1812 appearance.  When the newly appointed William Jones took over as Secretary of the Navy amid the War of 1812, he found an underfunded department in shambles with no cohesive record keeping in place to help manage the precious few ships available for battle.  He hired a bunch of extra clerks, reorganized the entire record keeping process, and ordered that all ship construction, maintenance, and provisioning records be forwarded to Washington DC for proper cataloguing.  He utilized these records to carefully dole out the pitiful funds at his disposal where they were most needed.  Unfortunately, this meant that all of these valuable resources (at least for us future ship modelers) went up in flames when the British ungallantly sacked our capitol city and burned the public buildings and the navy yard.  That leaves folks to make assumptions on her war years appearance by extrapolating from when the written records peter out... The 1811 refit undertaken by Isaac Hull is reasonably well documented in journals and logs and is probably reflected in three dimensions by the Hull model in the Peabody Essex museum.  Most experts assume that she carried this configuration deep into the War of 1812 since the only written record to contradict it shows up when Charles Stewart noted in the log that he painted a Yellow stripe on the ship.  The reality is almost certainly something different... The advent of war changed the circumstances completely and likely caused the various captains of USS Constitution to restyle her as a wolf in sheep's clothing... Every captain's dream was to sail into the midst of a large convoy of merchant ships and cut out as many valuable prizes as possible before getting chased off by a ship of the line.  Every instant of doubt that a yellow stripe could introduce would be very helpful.  We see her represented in every credible painting of the period with a yellow stripe.  The record we have from Charles Stewart is interesting... He waited until he was offshore to rig up the painting platforms and repaint the stripe out of sight of prying eyes and informants on shore who might otherwise tip off the British fleet to the deception.  If Hull and/or Bainbridge overpainted the stripe, they likely did it offshore for the same reasons.  For this reason and others, I've elected to refer to the contemporary paintings to guide my project.

 

The only book I anticipate using as a key reference is Howard Chapelle's History of the American Sailing Navy.  In particular I will refer to the plan view of USS President (plate 16 between pgs 265-266) for the positioning of the diagonal knees on the gun deck and the proper placement of the bitts and the various pumps.

 

For the rigging I've gone ahead and purchased the very fine Bluejacket Manual/plan set for their 1/96 wooden kit model:

 

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The manual includes many historical research notes from Cmdr Tyrone Martin as well as detailed rigging directions.  The real value is added by the terrific scale deck and rigging plans that are included (there are four full size sheets) all produced in 1/96 scale.  Highly recommended.

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Essentially the Bluejacket Manual/plan set was purchased to help me rig the beast when I eventually get to that phase... I want to respect the intellectual property of the BJ folks, but I'm sure they won't mind a small snippet to encourage other modelers to invest in their own set:

 

L1100231.JPG

 

Hopefully this gives a sense of the terrific detail that the plans provide.

 

A funny thing happened when I went online to the BJ site to order the manual set... It finally registered in my feeble mind that the Bluejacket kit was 1/8 scale (The same as 1/96)... I had never realized that before.  When I received my packet in the mail and ripped it open I found something nearly as valuable as all the rest - the detailed parts listing.  I sent along a note to the good folks at Bluejacket asking them whether the individual parts for their USS Constitution kit were available for separate sale.  Lisa wrote back and said that would be no problem.  Bluejacket, of course, is a major supplier of model ship parts, but you will not find most of their Connie components in their catalog.  After close examination I noted some specific part numbers, placed my order, and within a very reasonable period a small box showed up:

 

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I won't reveal all the contents... Those will show up at various points in my build log along the way, but here is an important sample:

 

L1100227.JPG

 

The longest boat provided in the Revell kit would scale to about 28 feet.  That might do to represent something like the commodore's barge, but not the Pinnace (long boat).  According to Tyrone Martin, the long boat would be 36 feet in length - which at 1/8 scale would measure out to around 4.5 inches.  Fortunately the BJ kit has a cast resin version (part no. 8633) that fits the bill very nicely.

 

L1100228.JPG

 

A bit of enhancement with some styrene components and this will be a real winner.

 

More good stuff from the Bluejacket box to be revealed as we move along...

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Here's the latest:

 

I've completed the iron bolt heads ("rivets") on the spar deck bulwarks, filled out the gun deck bulwarks, and started in on the gun deck knees.

 

The knees are a bit of a guess.  Here is how they currently look on the restored ship:

 

L1090156.JPG

 

I suspect these are more reflective of the 1927 effort to stiffen her structure than how they would've appeared in 1812.

 

Howard Chappelle in his History of the American Sailing Navy includes a plan view of USS President (taken from the Admiralty draught done after her capture) which shows interconnected diagonal knees (plan 16 between pgs 265-266).  I've elected to follow this approach in my build.  I chopped up a few small chunks of styrene and glued them in the appropriate locations to represent the beams for affixing the knees.  None of this will be visible once the spar deck is in place - even with the holes I intend to cut into the deck to expose the underlying beams and open small views to the gun deck.

 

I first marked the beam locations as defined by the spar deck pieces:

 

L1100243.JPG

 

(Incidentally, the spar deck butt pattern aligns well with the general positioning of the beams - unlike the Heller Victory kit)

 

I'll only represent the "legs" of the knees and not the "arms" at this point.  I'll likely need to include both at the waist where they may be visible.

 

The result seems to align well with Chappelle's representation and I'm very satisfied:

 

L1100235.JPG

 

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I've left the knees along the starboard waist undone for now.  Those will need to be closely aligned with the beams under the spar deck when I have those in place.

 

Still a few things to be done, but I'll set aside the half hulls for now and move on to the decking - if only to introduce some variety.  Wish me luck in eliminating the seams.

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Work begins on the spar deck...

 

Firstly, I need to open up some views to the gun deck by blasting some holes in strategic spots.

 

I've used a hot solder iron with a knife attachment to do this in the past, but that sure smells awful... I thought I'd utilize the drill press this time around:

 

L1100281.jpg

 

After drilling thru to outline the opening, I come back along and smooth out the shape by running the piece along the spinning bit (use a bit that is not your favorite!) to clean out the edges.  I didn't get too close to the final line - that was done using a wide file.

 

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Here is the process done for the fore deck:

 

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Long, smooth strokes with the wider file does the trick in just a few minutes.  The smaller file helps clean up some of the corners.

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L1100292.jpg

 

The opening in front of the helm position will allow views down to the gun deck capstan and the chain pumps:

 

L1100290.JPG

 

The fore deck opening will expose the riding bitts and the camboose (ship's stove):

 

L1100294.JPG

 

 

There is another long opening along the starboard gangway to reveal the 24 pdrs rigged up below.  The final opening aft on the quarterdeck will have views into the captain's cabin - the stern galleries and side panelling will be seen.

 

The appropriate beams and carlings will be added after I've glued the three pieces together (actually I'll use some of the beams to help align the edges when gluing),

 

Thanks for following along...

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Folks...

 

My wife originally hails from Boston so we make a few trips back periodically to visit with family and friends. This year they were really making a big deal out of the July 4 celebration with Old Ironsides as the centerpiece of the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 - so we decided to make our trip coincide with the festivities.

 

On Tuesday mornings during peak season the USS Constitution offers a special behind the scenes "Constitution Experience" tour of the great ship for a limited sized group (you need to pre-register thru the website). You get to see the morning flag raising and morning gun before heading aboard. The tour includes the captains quarters, the orlop deck, and a chance to crawl down into the after powder room - all spaces normally off limits to us civilians.

 

DSC08783.JPG

 

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During Cdr Tyrone Martin's tenure he had the forward gun modified to fire salutes. Here is the exposed loading tray of the surplus WWII anti-aircraft gun utilized for the purpose (each firing pin now costs $60 because of scarcity):

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The Tiller:

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Here is the scuttle down to the after powder room:

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Here is some original timber (transom wings?) in the aftermost space of the magazine:

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Here is my foot standing on original wood. The guide says it is the keel - but it is more likely the keelson or deadwood on top:

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Orlop deck with the diagonal riders:

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USS Constitution is, of course, still a commissioned warship in the US Navy so the guides are all active duty sailors and marines. The facts as presented in the tour are a bit sketchy in terms of accuracy, but the intent is well-meaning. Here are a few of the most egregious:

- "The frames are spaced two - four inches apart unlike the British ships, which were three or four FEET apart."

- "The crew fired a round every 90 seconds. The British crew fired every two to three minutes." (The opposite was probably true)

- "The ship could only fire every other gun in a broadside - otherwise a full broadside fired from every gun would tip the ship over."

 

Overall it was a terrific morning clambering around inside the great ship.

Edited by Force9

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Let's proceed with the gun deck.

I've got to eliminate those darn seams.

I need to carefully align each deck piece to each adjacent neighbor. Unfortunately, the middle section of the decking is moulded a bit thicker than the others, so I need to build up the thickness on the end pieces to match before I can glue and clamp.  The stern section needed a little more help than the bow section:

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After also adding a larger set of styrene strips to the underside to help align the surfaces (keeping away from the edges to not interfere with the mounting tabs moulded into the hull halves) I can go ahead and liberally smear everything with glue and clamp it all down:

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Once everything had dried for 24 hours I came back and absolutely assaulted the surface with 80 grit sandpaper:

 

 

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I think those seams are gone.  I'll next begin to prep the deck with some 150 grit sanding and start in on scribing the planks.

Thanks for following along

 

Edited by Force9

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Back to the build...

 

Spent my last few sessions scratching away at the gun deck to put some semblance of planking in place.

 

I set up the workbench with a bit of old cardboard for the pins underneath the deck to grab onto (and not break off) while I abused the topside.  I clamped the deck down by the bow to hold her steady and proceeded to scribe the decking.

 

The process was relatively simple and I hope I illustrate it well enough.  I used some spare lengths of styrene strips to represent each row of planking to establish the alignment of my straight edge.  I used the existing hatch coamings as the baseline, laid a styrene strip against it, then aligned the straight edge to the strip.  After clamping the edge down, I would remove the temporary styrene and scribe the line.  I would add another temporary strip to the mix to align my edge to the next row of planking... and so on... working from the middle out to the edges.

 

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For the middle decking I clamped down the straight edge and used the styrene strips for guidance (custom fit for the space)

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Next I scribed in a four step butt pattern following the guidance of Longridge (pages 120-21).

 

Came back along with a 180 grit sanding block and smoothed down the edges.

 

Took about six hours altogether.

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Here are some better photos with lighting that highlights the scribed lines...

 

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The step pattern was initially laid out using the diagram in the Longridge book (Pg 121).  Then it was a matter of coming along and scribing every fifth plank - either vertically or horizontally until the deck was complete.

 

Thanks for looking

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Lads...

 

The results will certainly be enhanced once I get some paint smeared across the surfaces.  That'll be a bit of fun - I'll pre-shade some planks and otherwise pick out each plank individually and then come along with an artist pencil to highlight the seams.

 

But I need to have the spar deck prepared as well so that I can efficiently tackle both at the same...

 

Here is the state of the spar deck:

Here again the deck is in three pieces and needs to be "seamlessly" melded together.

 

The seams were prepped with some supporting styrene beams and flat sections to help align everything when the glue was applied:

 

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After everything was set I once again resorted to some 80 grit sandpaper to smooth everything down in preparation for scribing the planks on the deck.

 

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I've scribed all of the planking and made another go at some joggling - both fore and aft. The planking was done using the same "stack, clamp, and scribe" method as used on the gun deck.  The four-step butt pattern was applied as well.

 

This deck has the exposed beams.  I've done the easy ones - main cross beams with carlings.  All of the hatches have the underlying support structure in place.  The opening over the waist gangway will be a bit more complex.  In addition to beams and carlings, I'll need to add some lodging knees and the canted "diagonal" knees attached to the beams.

 

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The skid beams caused me a momentary pause... The Bluejacket manual insists that ALL of the support beams are carried across the waist as skid beams.  And this is based on research conducted by Mr. Arnot and Cdr Martin.  Easy enough to make that happen, so I started trimming the appropriate Evergreen... But... The Revell kit is based ultimately on the Hull model and that artifact clearly shows that not all the beams span the waist.  Only about every other one.  Turns out the Chappelle plans of USS President based on the British drawings of the captured ship shows the same skid beams as the Hull model (and our Revell kit).  I decided to leave well enough alone.

 

L1100332.JPG

 

Work continues...  I'll build up the hatch coamings a bit on both decks and start work on the gun deck features.

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Folks...

 

I've just returned from a business/holiday trip to the East coast.  I somehow managed to be on hand when Old Ironsides put up her sails and proceeded along on her own power for the first time since 1997 - albeit for only 1,000 yards or so.  It was done to commemorate her great victory over HM Frigate Guerriere exactly 200 years hence.  After her brief sail, the tug brought her in close to the fort on Castle Island where she fired off her obligatory 21-gun salute to the roaring approval of the gathered throng.

 

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Enjoy

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Finishing off the beams and carlings on the spar deck...

 

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Here is a peek at the underside:

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The beams are fashioned from .100 x .156" (Evergreen 177) styrene and the carlings are .080 x .080" (Evergreen 164)

 

Turned out reasonably well...

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Folks -

 

I thought I should share another source of research material now available... The fine newly updated version of the USS Constitution CD produced by the Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC).  The CD includes many plans compiled by the Boston Detachment of the NHHC.  It mostly includes copies of Lt John Lord's drawings used for the 1927 restoration.  As such, they are not necessarily pertinent to the 1812 period, but do have some useful drawings of details like whale boats, Anchors, etc.  In particular, there are some historical references also included that I have found very interesting.  Finally, the drawings often include notes and links to sub-references that clarify the differences between the 1927 and 1812-14 versions.

 

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It should also be pointed out that the updated website for the NHHC/USS Constitution includes a very nice virtual tour of the ship:

 


 

The tour includes links as appropriate to many of the documents/plans included in the new CD.  Click on the FILE REFERENCE tab:

 


 

This link contains good stuff!  I highly recommend anyone interested in the great ship to peruse the link and explore the material available...

 

Enjoy!

Edited by Force9

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The Gun Deck hatch coamings

 

I decided that the basic hatch coamings along the gun deck were too wimpy and needed to be bulked up a bit.  I didn't want to increase the height since that would involve moving/redoing the gratings so I settled for widening them:

 

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Once I had the width, I proceeded to plank the surface with thin styrene to hide the seams and better represent the coamings.  I cut the pieces a tiny bit long and then came along at the end and filed everything even and smooth:

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Much improved I think...

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Additional gun deck detail

 

I've decided to add another hatch adjacent to one already existing on the gun deck... No two sources seem to agree on the general layout of the gun deck, but I figure that the adjacent hatches on the spar deck should be reflected on the deck below.  This would more logically allow more rapid egress between multiple decks.  It also affords me the chance to add more depth to my model - I'll eventually fashion a bit of the berth deck and have a companion ladder leading down another deck.

 

The hatch was done similarly to the other holes I whacked in the spar deck:

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There is a compromise to accuracy noticeably present - I had to create a platform for the gun deck capstan.  The position of the spar deck capstan does not quite align with the theoretical position of the underlying gun deck capstan - the lower hatch interferes slightly.  I built up this platform to align with the hatch edge as my new capstan will overlap that coaming.  So kill me!

 

The ship's stove will need a "tray" to rest upon.  I scratched in a brick pattern on some sheet styrene and added it to the deck in the appropriate spot with a bit of edging around to complete the effect:

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I also thought the Captain's day cabin could use some upgraded cabinetry detail:

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You'll notice some shot racks added around the hatches as well... No provision for shot storage is made anywhere in the Revell kit.  I think it would be general practice to include these around any large hatches on a frigate this size.  Here is the basic deck completed and ready for the next wave of detail (bitts, capstan, stove, pumps, etc.):

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L1100384.jpg

 

Thanks for following along!

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Hello Force9,

 

I'm pleased to see your beautiful Constitution log up and running again, looking forward to learning from your upgrades/modifications :)

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I've been following you build for a while. You are a good craftsman.

I have some questions about Evergreen you've used.

What did you use for the spar deck bulwarks? Gun deck beams and knees? Gun deck hatch coamings?

Thank you

Jim

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Aldo and Lambsbk - Thanks for the continued interest in my project.  I've a ways to go to get all the log entries back in place and I hope to have a few new ones to add in a week or so...

 

James - Thanks for your interest as well and I will make an effort to update my entries with the materials used.  I've been neglectful in that area. I had not anticipated that other folks might want to adopt some of the same approaches that I have taken...  I didn't mean for this to be any type of practicum for others to follow, but I'll make the effort to make things more clear as I go along.

 

Stay tuned

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This is a very impressive build, sir.  The Connie has been a lifelong favorite and is on my list of future builds.  I think your mixing of photos of the real deal and what you are doing is a great way to spice up the log - keep on keeping on!

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Hello Force9 .. we meet and discussed on a British forum months ago .. but I lost contact a bit!

 

Wow you began with your Constitution - and its amazing!!!

 

You are doing all those things (and far more) I was dreaming about.

 

THATs what I wanna do too .. 

 

:angry: .. bad thing about it: now I have to change my plans ... (but I do have some ideas) 

;) .. good thing about it: Constitution gives a wide field of different layouts to avoid "a copy" of your beautiful work .. maybe I will try a Bainbridge oder a Steward-configuration? .. Or even better - a 1803-version with the beautiful stern decoration ...We´ll see

 

For now I am really happy to follow your impressive work and to be inspired and warned for my future steps (which will still need much more time and practice on my whaler and maybe another sailer before I try such a beautiful kit) 

 

You did chose the Arnold-plans for the rigging? .. a good source!  But there is a even better one (as I think).

 

Did you hear about "All sails up and flying" by Olof Eriksen? 

 

http://books.google.de/books?id=XYUWBpxFZN8C&pg=PA97&lpg=PA97&dq=all+sails+up+and+flying&source=bl&ots=uWUP_QXhNJ&sig=Z26G471dMXS_NXZssLcK51ul6Dk&hl=de&sa=X&ei=8okkUbOtL8LBhAeEiID4AQ&sqi=2&ved=0CE4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=all%20sails%20up%20and%20flying&f=false

 

Look at it - its a great work which only has three cons:

1. the author is VERY sure about his work .. no room for doubts and professional distance ..

2. it represents Stewards rigging in 1815 - so not exactly what you are looking for. 

3. the publisher did not want to spend too much money - while on other side he wanted earn as much as possible. So the book is very expensive - and offers not enough room for the hundreds of drawings which Olof Eriksen did create to build is model

 

But there are many plus: 

1. Olof Ericsen compared the british and american way of rigging (Steel and ..?? What was the other ones name?) ..

2. and he consulted the Isaac Hull Modell as reference - and was allowed to do some investigations on the model - which is very interesting.

3. he got a copy of the logbook of a midshipman by T. Martin. This describes the rerigging in the 1830s. ordered by the navyboard to be done "according to the usage in the War 1812-1815" .. so there will - of course - be some differences ... but at least they tried to do it in the "old" way.

4. Erksen did investigations how the rigging would have worked - he tried each "method" (British, American, Hull-Modell, Midshipmans describtion) and tried   to "work" with the results ..choosing the most likely version.

 

I think this work would deserve a much better (more valuable) book and of course much more and much wider drawings than the publisher wanted to risk. 

 

But nevertheless: the book is a great inspiration!!!

 

I am really happy I stepped over your building log! Thank you for showing this!!

Marcus

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Hi Evan,

 

Those who may not be familiar with your new build are in for a treat; it takes modelling the Constitution to another level and your work addresses those less than good detail areas to make this venerable old kit into something special.

 

Cheers,

 

B.E.

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I got the Bluejacket Camboose today...but I have not worked with the photo etched suff before. If you don't mind explaining: how did you go about assembling this piece? Did you use styrene backing? I do have some. Thanks.

 

http://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/444-uss-constitution-–-revell-–-plastic-–-196-a-fresh-build/

Edited by lambsbk

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Hello Lads!

 

Wayne - many thanks for the compliments for my log... When all is said and done, I hope folks get a better sense of the ship and her history in addition to some ideas for building the kit.

 

Hallo Marcus!  How is my German kindred spirit doing?  I'm glad you did stumble upon my log and I hope it provides incentive for you to start your own build.  Don't worry about copying anything you see here - it is all up for grabs and ultimately we all manage to make our projects unique in their own way...  I would say, however, that an 1803 version would be very interesting to see.  Please keep an eye on my progress and feel free to comment often!

 

I will use the Arnot rigging plans for most of my guidance.  I have seen Mr. Erikson's book before and I think your comments are very accurate.  I think I will be influenced to by his work to alter a few things here and there... If I remember correctly, among other things he decided that there was no separate royal topmast - it was actually just an extension of the topgallant mast.  The royal yards did not have lifts, etc. either - they were rigged whole and hoisted into position from the deck.  This corresponds to Constitution's log of August 19 when it notes that the royal yards were lowered to the deck prior to the battle.

 

Hello Blue Ensign!  As always, I value your comments and very much appreciate the guidance you've provided on the "other" forum.  I would say that your Pegasus build would equally qualify as providing a new standard for that kit.

 

Lambsbk - I'm glad to see you've gotten a hold of the BlueJacket photo etch set.  I did augment the camboose with some styrene.  I substituted some styrene in place of the back wall of the firebox to give more structure (the kit piece is a bit thin) as I bent the panels into place.  The P.E. is very forgiving and should bend nicely with the aid of a metal straight edge or P.E. bending tool.  I'll post more of my log so you'll be able to see some of the elements I added.

 

Thanks all for your interest!

 

EG

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