I recently completed the Fair American, which is my second build. It followed my first build– a solid hull Model Shipways Rattlesnake-that I completed 45 years ago. Looking back on the years, I had no prior ship model experience prior to the Rattlesnake. I had seen some ship models in a hobby shop, and I decided to try my hand at the Rattlesnake. IMO, the build turned out good. The 45-year hiatus was due to raising a family and making a career in civil engineering. Then, came retirement and an opportunity to try my hand at ship building again. I’m glad that I did. The experience was so gratifying that I decided to embark on a third build – the US Brig Syren. I ordered the ship from ModelExpo shortly before it temporarily closed its operations due to the Coronavirus outbreak. While awaiting delivery, I studied Chuck Passaro’s fine instructions on-line at the ModelExpo website. As I progressed through the instructions, I compared them to some Syren build logs on the Nautical Research Guild site – it helps to read other build logs and to learn from their experiences. From what I have read, I suspect this build is going to be very challenging. It’s going to test my resolve. Anyway, this is the first post on my Syren build. It starts with the obligatory photo of the ship model box. I checked the parts list against the contents and found everything to be in order. I labeled the size of the various bundled wood strips for quick reference.
The numbered and lettered bulkheads (BH) were tested in their proper slots in the bulkhead former (BF). They fit nicely – no sanding necessary. The BHs will be beveled later. I soaked the 3/32” x 1/16” rabbet strip in water for about 20 minutes and then attached it to the BF, held in place with rubber bands and clips as per the instructions. After it dried, I permanently glued it to the BF, taking care to be sure that it is centered. I also glued a rabbet strip to the stern. I let the rabbet dry overnight. While the glue was drying on the rabbet, I began beveling the BHs, both outboard (first) and inboard (second). I decided to complete all the beveling before returning to the rabbet.
Returning to the rabbet, I traced the laser cut bearding line and perforated holes to establish the bearding line and then carved the taper from the bearding line towards the rabbet edge. I tapered the bearding line toward the keel with a chisel and sandpaper. I completed one side when I discovered that I used the wrong size rabbet strip – Duh. So, I removed it. I decided to taper the bearding line on the opposite side of the BF before replacing the rabbet with the correct size strip. This worked out well, and it made me wonder why the tapering of the bearding line couldn’t be done before fitting the rabbet strip. For me, it was easier. You just need to taper each side evenly so as to leave a wide even plane on the bottom of the BF to glue the rabbet strip.
With the taper from the bearding line to the rabbet complete, I repeated the process of installing the rabbet. I let the rabbet strip dry overnight. I turned my attention to the stem knee. I tapered the stem knee to fit the figurehead. I filed the figure to lessen the amount of taper and for her fit better. I took care not to taper the stem knee beyond the bob stay holes. I laid the BF, the stem knee, and the 3/16” x 3/16” basswood strip for the keel flat on the work bench and checked that the rabbet depth was about the same on both sides of the stem and the keel strip. I had to sand the rabbet one side to deepen the depth of the rabbet. The keel strip was fine. I glued the stem knee, secured it with clamps, and let it dry sufficiently before gluing the keel strip. While waiting for the glue to dry, I tapered the two laser cut bow fillers. I attached the false keel with blue masking tape to protect the keel.
At this point, I decided to drill some pilot holes (1/8") in the BF for the masts as some other builders had done. I superimposed the BF onto the plan sheet and marked the angle of the masts on the BF using a straight edge aligned with the center line of the masts.
Inserted the BHs into their respective slots, making sure that the scribed sides of each lettered BH face towards the bow and that all sides of each numbered BH face the stern. I faired the BF as per the instructions, checking the fair with a 1/8” x 1/16” planking strip. Rather than glue all the BHs permanently and then cut and glue the filler blocks, I glued each BH and cut and glued the filler blocks as I went along. I started with BHs P, N, and L, jumped to BH 26 and 24, and then completed the process from BH D through BH24. The filler blocks were cut from 1” x 2” pine stock left over from a home improvements project. With BHs and filler blocks in-place permanently, I did more fairing, outboard and inboard.
Cut 1/16” x 1/8” basswood strips for the platform between BHs 16 and 20. Ran a pencil across the edge of each plank to simulate the caulking between them, and each one in-place. Opted not to add tree nails since they won’t be visible. The planks will be cleaned up and stained with MinWax Golden Oak later.
Moving on to Chapter 3, I taped the framing template to the bulkheads. As can be seen in the photos, the BHs align closely with the template, except for the bow. This did not surprise me because I had read in other build logs that the templates are way off – they don’t align with BHs P and N. To check the squaring of the BHs, I cut out the overhead view template and placed it on the deck. The BHs align closely with the overhead view template. Also, as a check on my mast pilot holes, I superimposed the overhead view template on the plan sheet an marked the locations of the masts – the pilot holes are spot on.
As I interpret the template, the bottom of the template represents the bottom of the 3/16” wide gun port frame. The top of the bottom yellow line would be the gun port sill. I pinned a batten at the bottom of the template on the starboard and port side of the hull. I removed the template to find that the batten doesn’t completely align with the bottom reference line etched onto each bulkhead. Considering that they aren’t that far off, and that the instructions say the bulkheads may not be sitting in their respective slots at precisely the same level, I decided to use the batten as a guide. I marked each bulkhead edge with a pencil along the top of the batten and removed the batten. The batten also serves to check the fairing. The fairing looks good as the run is fairly (no pun intended) smooth with no humps or dips.
Based on the plans, the gun port sills are 3/16” above the top of the BHs (1/16” for the plank. 1/16” for the waterway, and 1/16” for the swivel bracket). So, rather than use the batten, I opted to use a 3/16” strip as a guide in locating the gun port sills. I placed the 3/16” strip on the top of the BH as a guide to align the top of the gun port frames. I think this approach should pretty much assure that the gun ports will be probably aligned with the carronades – time will tell.
While waiting for Amazon to ship my Dremel 8220 cordless rotary tool, I started measuring, cutting, and fitting the gun port sill frames from the ¼” x 3/16” wood strips. I used a mini miter box for cutting the strips. Starting on the port side, I glued the frames in place (from stern and bow), taking care that the top (sill) of the frame was set flush with the 3/16” guide strip. While the glue was drying, I cut and fit the starboard side gun port frames. The ¼” wide strips require a lot of sanding – I had planned to use the Dremel. To alleviate the amount of inboard sanding, I set the frames such that they protrude just beyond the BH. The consequence of this is that it increases the amount of outboard sanding. To lessen the outboard sanding, I trimmed the frames before sanding. I sanded and filed the port side gun port frames inboard and outboard - wish I had my Dremel. Then, I glued the starboard side gun port frames, allowed the glue to dry, trimmed the frames, and sanded and filed them inboard and outboard.
For the placement of the gun port lintels, I used a block cut to 15/32” to position the lintels. The process for installing the gun port lintels is the same as the gun port sills. I set the 15/32” block on each gun port sill and the lintel on top of the block and glued the lintel in-place. Whence the glued dried, I sanded and filed the lintels by hand to fair them with the hull. At this point, some the lintels are a little less than 1/8”, so I want to be careful not to over sand them.
Next up, the green frames. I set up the template as per the instructions and I marked the locations for each vertical green frame on the gun port sills and lintels. I measured and cut the frames from 3/16” x ¼” stock. I glued the green frames in place using the 15/32” block as a guide. As with the sill and lintel frames, I trimmed the green frames to lessen the sanding. I sanded the outboard frames to match the BH stanchion profile.
Using a 1/8” wood strip as a guide, I placed it on the port sills and marked the position of the red (horizontal) frames. I measured and cut the frames from the 3/16” x 1/14” wood strips. The frames were glued in place with the 1/4” side facing outboard – no trimming required here. I held off on sanding the red frames until after the blue frames are installed. I made a 1/8” x 1/8” block to square the sweep ports. Measured, cut, and glued sweep port frames (blue) in place. I did some final outboard sanding. The hull fairing looks good.
Only one glitch so far - While sanding the lintels, BH 4 broke off. I glued it back on but didn’t get it perfectly aligned. As a result, in the last photo you’ll notice the port side of the hull has a hump at BH 4. This may not be noticeable after the bulwarks is planked and the cap rail is installed. I’m satisfied with the progress, however.
Next up, Chapter 4 – Stern Framing. Stay tuned.