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Louie da fly

10th-11th century Byzantine dromon by Louie da fly - 1:50

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For one reason and another, | didn’t get a chance to shape the plug for the dromon last weekend, so I’ve got into it again this weekend.

 

Still a work in progress – it’s not bad, but I took a little too much wood away on the second side (just as I did on the first) so I’ve used builder’s filler to build it up again, and I have to wait till tomorrow for it to dry so I can do the final sanding, to get exactly the cross-sections I want. I’ll put up pictures when it’s done.

 

In the meantime, each evening when I get home from work I’ve been making oars. The dromon will have 100 oars in all – 25 per side in both upper and lower banks. I’ve worked out that if I make one oar each evening I’ll have them all done in four months.

post-1425-0-17767900-1457773674_thumb.jpg

 So far I’ve made 4 upper bank oars and one lower one – only 95 to go! (the photo only shows four, but that was taken this morning - I’ve made another oar since then).As the photo shows, it's very difficult to get all the oars exactly the same. But as they're only 2.5mm (1/10') in diameter at their thickest, I don't think I've done too bad a job. 

 

After I discovered how much work is involved in individually marking out each oar before cutting out, I decided to use AutoCad to print them off in bulk onto a sheet of paper so I could cut out and glue groups of oars onto the wood and then saw them out roughly to shape. After that I’ve been using a Stanley knife to trim down each oar, taper the thickness and round it off, smoothing off with files of progressively finer levels of ‘cut’.

 

Today I began to use the power sander to taper the thickness, which cuts out a fair bit of work with the Stanley knife. 

 

And now I’ve realised I can short-cut it further if all the oars face the same way, because I can use the sander to roughly taper the thickness of a sheet of wood with a whole lot of them on it before I cut them out, so all the oars are done at the same time. So I’ll change the AutoCad drawing and print off again.

 

The upper oars are somewhat longer than the lower ones, and because the upper oarsmen are above decks, the oars will be visible in their entirety, so they need to be properly shaped all the way along their length.

 

The lower oarsmen are below decks, so the part of the oars that is inboard won’t be visible. So this means that from the fulcrum inboard they don’t have to be ‘oar-shaped’. I’ll probably make some kind of rack to support their inboard ends so they don’t flop around, and shape the ends to slot into the rack. This is something of a bonus, because getting oar handles right is possibly the hardest part of the job. I’ve already made one lower bank oar with a ‘proper’ handle, but I won’t be making more until I’ve decided exactly what to do – I’ll stick to upper oars for the time being.

 

post-1425-0-08843100-1457774020_thumb.jpg

 

I've drawn and pasted to a piece of wood the first crew member who I'll carve out to pass the time when I get bored with making oars or shaping the hull. He's a stradiote - a marine. He'll be in Byzantine style armour, complete with helmet and sword. In fact all the upper oarsmen served as marines as well, and took the major part in any combat that occurred. It was left to the lower oarsmen to keep the vessel moving when she went into battle.

Edited by Louie da fly

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Thanks for the suggestion, Mark. I expect I'll be casting the oarsmen (too much carving, even for me!). But I love working with the wood to make the oars and I get a great sense of accomplishment from making them.

 

The (very) minor differences between the oars actually look much greater in the photo than they do to the naked eye - one of the problems with high-definition photos, I suppose.

 

Steven 

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Steven,

 

What is so different about the upper to continue just with them ... do you want to keep them as equal as possible ... I wouldn't change the way you make between upper and lower, you might see the difference with the naked eye ...

 

As suggestion .. you could make the handle, loom, and body first - have the body extend the length of the blade - and attach the blade in two pieces to the body, after wich you only need to sand the blade 'flush'  or in the required form

 

Cheers

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Hi Steven

 

You can make the oars very simple if you own a lathe. See a method for such things in my report to the

SMS Danzig, Page 1, Post 7

http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/12842-sms-danzig-1851-by-gerhardvienna-radio-150-scale/

 

When the oars are not over 2,5 mm diameter, you should use round wood of 3mm diameter and a piece of 4 x 3mm brass tube, and file that in shape. Then you will only have to rework the blades.

 

BTW, really interesting build!!

 

Regards

Gerhard

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Thanks everybody for all the 'likes'.

 

Cog, thanks for the interest. I won't be doing the lower oars differently - they'll be made the same way and they'll look the same. But the part of the oar that's inside the ship won't need to have the small handle at the end, because you won't be able to see it. And I can take advantage of that to make a different end to the oars, to fit in a bracket or rack which will hold all the lower oars in place. I should do a diagram to show what I mean - except I'm not yet totally clear in my mind how I'm going to do it. It's easier to make the blades as part of the oars - they're so small that adding the blades separately would be much more difficult than just carving them out of one piece. 

 

Druxey, thanks for the encouragement. I really prefer to be making the oars individually by hand and keeping casting to a minimum. It's a personal pride thing, and anyway, it's a wooden model after all, and I think I should make everything from wood that I can . To answer your question, the longer ones are about 5.4 metres long full size - that's a little under 18 feet. The shorter ones are about 4.5 metres if I remember correctly. The looms are maybe 125mm (5") thick at the larger end.

 

Gerhard, I had a small modelmaker's lathe when I was a teenager, and it would probably have been ideal for the job. But when I moved out of home I couldn't take it with me and it must have got thrown out years ago. I'm not sure my lathe skills are good enough, but I was just asking yesterday about the cost of small lathes, and they're well outside my budget at the moment. It would be nice to be able to get the oars more consistently the same, but I'm pretty happy with the way they're turning out. Maybe one day I'll get a lathe and try again. But probably not. Once I've made the dromon, there are a whole lot of other ship types I want to try making.

 

Steven 

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Thanks for the information, Steven. I'm sure that the actual oars varied slightly from each other and were not the result of mass-produced casting (although it's a tempting thought)! I applaud your wanting to keep the model of wood.

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More progress on the plug. I’ve sanded down all the builder’s filler from yesterday and got it pretty much where I want it.

 

post-1425-0-09920900-1457847200_thumb.jpg  post-1425-0-74454800-1457847250_thumb.jpg  post-1425-0-57214800-1457847266_thumb.jpg  

 

However, somehow the curve of the tail doesn’t seem to quite line up with my original drawings. As I’ve made the sternpost and the ‘tailpiece’ to go with the drawings, there may be some conflict.

 

 

I have two options if it doesn’t all line up: I can use more builder’s filler to build the stern up and then sand it to shape so it fits the pieces I’ve already made, or I can make new ones to fit the current shape. But I’m going to finalise the central spine with cut-outs for the stem and stern-posts before I commit myself to doing either, so I know where I am.

 

 I’ve currently just screwed the two halves of the plug together with the central spine between, to see how it all works together.There’s still some adjustment to be done – the two halves don’t fit quite tightly together along the whole length, so I’ll probably have to do a bit more sanding, or else I can clamp it all together and glue it as-is. I think I prefer to take a bit more time and get it right.

 

post-1425-0-67767500-1457847312_thumb.jpg  post-1425-0-89657600-1457847385_thumb.jpg   

 

And for some idea of scale, here’s one of our cats (and my hand) with an oar

 

post-1425-0-36339700-1457847415_thumb.jpg

 

plus one of a sheet of wood with oar templates glued on, which I’ve tapered down in thickness to save doing them individually, (as per my previous post)

 

post-1425-0-37852800-1457847541_thumb.jpg

 

 and another of me holding it to show the taper.

 

post-1425-0-01053100-1457847582_thumb.jpg

 

Edited by Louie da fly

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Steven,

 

Nice scale to work on ... that's some fiddly bits you are producing ... The rack idea for the lower oars is a good one. I have come across a build of a bi- or trireme which was made to row ... can't recall if it's on MSW or on youtube. I'll have a search ... maybe that gives a possible solution

 

Cheers

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Thanks, Carl.

 

Yes, there are videos of working biremes both on youtube and here on MSW.

 

Way out of my league, I'm afraid. I'll stick with what I know and stay with a static model - radio control is a whole other subject that I have no idea about, though my hat goes off to those who master it.

 

Steven

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Latest progress. I've glued the plug together and slightly widened the gap between the sides so the stempost and sternpost can come out more easily when I remove them.

 

post-1425-0-40731700-1458734016_thumb.jpg 

 

I've added a bit of builder's filler to adjust the shape of the upper works at the stern so the sheer is a smoother curve at the tail,

post-1425-0-82960300-1458734045_thumb.jpg

and drawn transverse lines for the frames either side of the oarports, so I don't have to cut a frame to put an oarport in. I should be able to get away with 21 frames at this stage - out of a total of 127. The rest will be added after the planking is finished.

post-1425-0-73930800-1458734079_thumb.jpg

 

I've cut timber to 1/2 millimetre for the pine planks. I used a dropsaw - not perhaps the most elegant method, and there was a fair bit of wastage with planks that came out too thick, but I'm pretty happy with the result.

post-1425-0-95906900-1458734109_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-06055800-1458734130_thumb.jpg

 

And I've carved my first crewman out of pear wood. post-1425-0-71632400-1458734164_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-88165800-1458734177_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-72265300-1458734196_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-78253300-1458734210_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-99725800-1458734221_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-57059100-1458734233_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-29219300-1458734254_thumb.jpg post-1425-0-30064900-1458734271_thumb.jpg

 

Not quite finished, but well on the way. Still needs a lot of smoothing off to get rid of the blade marks. I'm not totally happy with him - I might not end up using him, as his face leaves a bit to be desired. He's intended to be standing on the deck holding onto a shroud. The hand isn't finished yet, and might not be till I'm able to put him in position on the deck. Still, rather fun after carving a bunch of oars all the same. Ten done now - only 90 to go!

Edited by Louie da fly

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Thanks everyone for all the 'likes'. I probably won't be posting again for awhile - life gets in the way, and I won't be able to get to a computer. But I should be making more progress on the build.

Edited by Louie da fly

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Well, only 87 oars to go, and I've started on the frames. There is quite a sharp corner at the futtock and I kept breaking the frames trying to bend them around it. I finally tried boiling a frame in water for half an hour then left it in the water for another two and a half hours and it worked beautifully. Then I discovered I could get the same result soaking in cold water for 3 hours. So I'm on my way. I clamped the frame to the groove I'd cut in the plug overnight and it came out beautifully. Now to cut another 18 or so to put on the plug and plank over. The current plan is to put the other 106 frames in after the planking is finished. Oh, and I think I've worked out how to make the oarsmen without having to carve 50 of them individually. No photos at the moment I'm afraid.

 

Steven

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I've had to widen and deepen the grooves in the plug for the frames. They weren't sitting in the grooves properly and were twisting. I've made maybe half a dizen frames so far a d I've started to develop a systematic way of making them after a lot Iif trial and error. My first problem was how to cut the frames from 1mm thick wood and make them 1mm wide all the way along their length without the wood shifting under the steel rule as I cut along it. I finally discovered two important lessons. First, only make the frame a little longer than its final length. That way it doesn't move so easily when you cut it. Secondly, just scire along the cut line to start with. This gives the blade a groove to follw when you cut deeper. I usually get the frame fully cut off in three or four passes of a Stanley knife and it follows the line well.

 

I bought some light clamps to keep the frames in place in the grooves while they dry, and I've discovered that one hour in cold water is enough to make them sufficiently supple to follow the curve without breaking.

Edited by Louie da fly

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Do you have a small saw like a Microlux, Proxxon or Byrnes? It makes cutting dimensioned material very consistent, without the wastage that will occur with the knife-and-ruler method. It's also much quicker! For small section, you should have or make a zero-clearance insert.

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No, I don't have any of these, but maybe I should check them out.

 

Here's some photos I didn't get the chance to put up in my previous post, by the way.

 

Two frames clamped in place: from above:

 

post-1425-0-60433200-1460950311_thumb.jpg

 

and from below:

 

post-1425-0-12851500-1460950344_thumb.jpg

 

And the first of two steering oars - I made it in two pieces. I cut the blade then drilled holes in a line and turned them into a slot that the loom would fit into

 

post-1425-0-74619100-1460950468_thumb.jpg

 

and the completed steering oar. A neater job than if I'd tried to carve it from a single piece of wood. Plus the oars I've made to date.

post-1425-0-70081300-1460950549_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Louie da fly

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If you are a serious modeller - and it appears that you are - and can afford it, you should seriously consider a small circular saw.

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Oh, I intend to. But currently the budget won't allow it. There are a number of tools I'd dearly like to have - including a drill press, a scroll saw, even a normal bench saw, a small lathe and others I'd normally consider impossible to do without.

 

But they'll just have to wait until I can afford to get them. In the meantime I just have to get a bit inventive and work around what is lacking.

 

And by the way, thanks for the compliment. To have you call me a serious modeller I consider high praise indeed. And thanks everybody for all the 'likes'.

 

Steven

Edited by Louie da fly

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I’m afraid the plug isn’t very pretty – in fact it’s quite messy; the result of a series of trial and error attempts to get the spacing of the frames right and work out the lines the wales need to follow. I’m very much learning as I go along. However, it’s not the plug that needs to look good – just the ship itself.

 

I’ve sanded the first crew member down smooth and made him look quite respectable – except for one hand. The idea is for him to be standing on deck holding onto a shroud, and I’m not going to finalise that until the ship has reached the point of having shrouds so I can get his hand the right shape.

 

post-1425-0-22177200-1461124397_thumb.jpg  post-1425-0-49288700-1461124578_thumb.jpg  post-1425-0-65286400-1461124603_thumb.jpg

 

I've also got to tidy up his feet and check that he stands properly.

 

I’ve made 13 oars so far, but it’s quite likely I’ll have to discard several as I’m not happy with how they turned out. Though I made the first ones too thick, I can shave them down and get them right. But some I either made in too much of a hurry or too carelessly and they are out of round and can’t be fixed. It just means it’ll take longer to finish them all off.

 

I initially had a problem with keeping tabs on which frames went where. They are so thin that you can’t write on them, so I worked out that I could make little name tags for them and tie them on with cotton thread. Seems to work ok. Once they're all bent to shape I can put them in place and start gluing everything together (at last!)

 

Druxey, I looked at those saws and though they’re very attractive I’m not likely to be able to justify getting one. I’m doing this all on a shoestring – I even thought twice about spending 9 dollars on a couple of clamps. Additionally, now I’ve got cutting out the frames down to a system, it all works very well, and I’m enjoying doing it. It probably takes marginally longer than sawing them out, but that’s ok.

 

My major goal at the moment is to finish all the frames to go in the plug, put them in place and glue the keel, wales and planks to them. I had a problem with keeping the glue from sticking the frames to the plug – the grooves in the plug are too thin for beeswax and I don’t want to use oil in case it soaks into the frames and makes them reject the glue. So I had the bright idea of making up a ‘slurry’ of soap and water and painting that into the grooves. Once it dries out it should coat the grooves and the plug with a thin film of soap, which should reject the glue but not soak into the frames. I hope so, anyway.   

 

Steven

Edited by Louie da fly

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Steven,

 

Looking good...  

 

You might try painting the plug with white glue and water to seal it, then use a paste wax (automotive) over it.  Lay on 2 or 3 coats with buffing between coats.   Or...  make the grooves ever so slight larger and wrap the plug in a kitchen food wrap.  Test first though.... 

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I totally understand, Steven. I worked without power tools and on a  shoestring for many years.

 

A thin coat of wax shouldn't narrow your grooves. Other solutions are a coat or two of gloss varnish. I wouldn't recommend anything that is water-soluble like white glue (sorry, Mark!). Personally, I use paste wax over gesso. And I don't think soap is quite 'it' either - water soluble.

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Thanks for the advice. I'll do a little experimenting before I commit myself to doing it on the model itself.

 

I'm also a little concerned that the frames fit too tightly in the grooves at the moment and might not lift out cleanly when it's all glued up. So I need to look at that as well and sort it out before the gluing stage.

 

And then there's the issue of sequencing - obviously the frames have to go in place before I glue the keel to them, but what about the wales? I had in mind to put the top wale and one of the lower wales on before I started planking, to hold the frames together and in their correct shape. I THINK I should do that after the keel, but I'm still trying to think it through to make sure I don't paint myself into a corner.

 

Steven

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Here are the frames I've made so far.

 

post-1425-0-43570700-1461390567_thumb.jpg

 

It's interesting that even though they're supposed to be progressively narrower as they progress towards the ends from amidships, they seem to be anything but consistent in shape. However, I believe this is because of variations in the wood and the conditions under which it was clamped into place.

 

In any event, the springiness of the wood will enable them to return to their correct shape once they're in place on the plug and held in with planking and wales. The hard part was getting the wood to bend around a quite sharp corner at the futtock. Once that's been achieved the rest should follow without too much trouble (I hope).

 

Steven

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I've just spent about a week literally going around in circles (pun intended) making shields for the sides of the ship. 

 

I decided that I didn't want to carve 50 shields.  Byzantine shields in contemporary representations are routinely either the shape of a bowl with the inside toward the holder

 

post-1425-0-21443600-1462025565.jpg

 

or a very shallow cone

 

post-1425-0-09202400-1462025109_thumb.jpg

 

and carving 50 of them would be just too much hard work.

 

 

Ideally I'd make them of wood, but as a shield of the time was usually about 7mm (a little over 1/4") thick, it was totally unrealistic. So I decided to carve a single shield and cast from that in some suitable material that would be light and strong, probably paper or cardboard, or perhaps papier mache'. I also thought of using builder's filler, but for various reasons (including wastage every time you mix up a batch) I decided against it.

 

I decided to make the shield bowl-shaped. The shields I was accustomed to using in my mediaeval re-enactment days had a hole in the middle covered by a bowl-shaped central iron boss, which encloses and protects the hand so you can grip the shield by a rigid handle across the hole. This puts your hand in the same plane as the body of the shield, so your control is better than if the handle was offset.  

 

Here is the shield in the process of being carved out. I used pear wood, as it has a nice fine grain.

 

post-1425-0-14986600-1462025170_thumb.jpg   post-1425-0-49052900-1462025193_thumb.jpg

 

And here it is complete.

 

post-1425-0-18206000-1462025266_thumb.jpg   post-1425-0-42833700-1462025290_thumb.jpg 

 

But I shouldn't have made my mould out of plaster of Paris. Trouble is, that stuff is too soft to take repeated castings without deteriorating to the point that all useful detail would be lost. So I decided to change tack and make the mould of builder's filler instead. But as the wooden original had curled up at the edges when it got wet, I couldn't use it again.

 

So I cast another on in the plaster mould, using builder's "bog" (filler) - wonderful stuff - hard and strong and durable, and makes a beautifully detailed casting. An hour or so later I tried to take the new shield 'blank' out of the plaster. Couldn't do it without breaking the mould, but as I wasn't going to use it any more, that was ok.

 

Then I made a new mould out of goopy builder's bog and put the shield in face down. I'd covered the shield with shoe polish first, to stop the casting from adhering to the mould. It worked well - there's a small nick in one edge of the blank where I had to put a blade in to get leverage, but that's all.

 

Then I tried making shields. I used thin card to approximate a 7mm edge, but it crumpled in the mould, even though I'd wet it first. Next I used card from the box the dog biscuits came in. Pretty good, but still a bit of crumpling, so it ended up with a groove from the centre to the outside edge. It's possible that with care and practice I might be able to overcome this problem. I also tried papier mache', using damp shredded paper and a bit of PVA glue. It filled the mould all right and came out ok, but didn't have the quality of detail the dog biscuit card had provided.

 

post-1425-0-37594600-1462025359_thumb.jpg

 

From left to right - the builder's bog 'blank', the mould, dog biscuit shield and papier mache'

 

 

Then I took a break overnight, and as I lay awake it came to me. I'd got the shield wrong! I looked again at the Byzantine shields I had pictures of. They didn't have a boss sticking out of the surface of the shield. Because Byzantine shields, without exception,  were controlled not by a rigid handle as the Viking, Anglo-Saxon and other West European shields were, but by enarmes - short leather or rope loops attached to the back of the shield. You grab both enarmes in one hand and control the shield that way. Having used both techniques I can say I'd far rather use the handle, but that's not the point.

 

 

post-1425-0-07326900-1462026099_thumb.jpg

 

 

With enarmes, you don't need the a hole in the middle of the shield or a boss sticking out of it.

 

 

 

So I'm back to square one. I'll make a new shield blank (this time as a shallow cone). And it won't have that boss sticking out.

 

I know if I had kept it as it was hardly anybody would have known. But I would.

 

Steven  

Edited by Louie da fly

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That's in interesting bit of research, Steven.  

 

The shields hang on the side of the ship, right?  Would something like sculpy clay work? 

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