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HMS Surprise by mikeaidanh - Atresania Latina - Scale 1:48, pre 1798 refit.

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Hello one and all,


Here I go then. My attempt to build HMS Surprise.

I had hoped to base this very firmly on Jack Aubrey’s vessel but I have found it difficult to tie down exactly what Patrick O’Brian had in mind. It is quite clear that O’brian contradicts himself at times and that he plays fast and loose with the time line. Others may have a better handle on this than me and I would love to hear their thoughts; in the mean time the plan is to build L’Unite/Surprise before her refit in 1798 thus giving scope to include “long guns” much loved by our Jack.


The kit from Artesania Latina leaves much to be desired even to my unpracticed eye and this has been touched upon by others. Kim, krt2, pointed out, in his sadly now missing build log, the problem with mast positions and channels. I intend to address these issues where I can and, again, would be very interested in the view of others.

So, HMS Surprise with the odd hint of Aubrey.


In the beginning.The familiar starting point. Does anyone else use this wonderful Dremel vice?



Gluing in using small engineers squares.



All bulkheads in place.



As I have a biggish drawing board it occurred to me that I could “test” the planking layout before fitting the false deck sections.



Binding strakes and Margin planks have also been drawn in.



Templates for margin planks...



......and in situ on the marked up deck.



The marked up deck will contain errors due to parallax and pencil thickness so they are purely a guide. I hope they will at least keep me on track when laying the planks. A butt shift pattern had been worked out in advance.....I hope it is correct!

Some below deck interest.



The main hatch will be displayed open for added interest and the hatch below that will also be open do infer that work between decks is underway. A hoist may be added later.




Fitting the false decks.....



....and a preview of the hatch below.



Oh no! a boo boo! Bulkhead 18 has been misfitted and I failed to notice it before now. A section of false deck must be cut out and removed before the glue holding the bulkhead has been softened with IPA and the offending piece removed and replaced correctly.(Sorry, lousy photo.)




In passing I must pay homage to the accumulated wisdom within these forums (fora?) that led me to the solution of PVA with IPA.



All fixed and the false deck section due to be replaced.



Starting the planking. A guide has been placed for laying the first plank.



The central un butt shifted planks are laid.

At this point I must thank those people who responded to my question regarding scraping and scrapers in the Building,Framing and Planking forum. The small amount of deck that  has been laid so far looked a bit messy due to inept use of the permanent marker and smudgy transfer from my fingers. I tried a wee scrape and it works! Now I must learn to be cleaner in my work

On the subject of plank edge marking it seems to look better if only one face of a pair of planks is marked. Is this the method in general?

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She's quite a beast Mike, and it looks like you are making a good start. Do you have the book The Frigate Surprise by Brian Lavery and Geoff Hunt, it does contain some supportive information to assist a build, particularly drawings by Marquardt.


One area amongst many that let the kit down are the headworks, these will need virtually a scratch build to get them looking anything like.


Re the caulking; I use the one edge only method using a Pilot chisel point broad marker, I have never had any problems with bleed.

I do however mark the butt ends using a pencil because of the end grain.


Look forward to seeing your progress.



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Yes. I do have the Lavery/Hunt book and a full set of the O'Brian books but even so there remains some confusion. I am not too bothered now as I have made my decision on the build....or more likely I have made the first of several final decisions!


I have read, in James Choi's account I think, about the problems with the ships head but thank you for the heads up.


I have learned a valuable lesson re caulking procedure but I would like to ask you if some timbers are better suited to the task than others.

I am using the wood provided with the kit but, before I go any further, What would you advise?


Thanks for your interest.



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I have used boxwood strip for my deck planking but  I had no trouble with bleed when I tested the Tanganyika strips supplied with kit.


There is just a colour difference in the finish of the planking, my personal preference is for fairly pale decks.


I believe some modellers use Holly which is virtually white, but probably expensive and difficult to get in deck planking sizes unless you are going to mill your own wood.





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Thanks B.E.

The wood supplied with the Surprise kit is Basswood which, I believe, is lime. The quality varies quite a lot strip to strip and I am not very happy with what I have completed so far. It is bite the bullet time, rip it off and start again. Do you have a reliable supplier for your boxwood? I have been buying extras from Cornwall Model Boats thus far. 


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Hi Mike, have AL supplied Limewood for the deck planking? It is normal for the hull planking particularly the first run on a double skinned hull but I've not heard of it for decking.


I get my supplies of boxwood strip from here.




It is good quality, but the postage is a bit pricey so I tend to order as much as I need in one go.


At 1:64 scale the 3.4mm x 0.7mm worked out almost spot on for the deck planking of Pegasus; at 1:48 scale 4.5mm x 0.7mm would  be about just right.


This is the same stuff that I also did the second hull planking in and having a range of widths made life easier for spiling planks, and for those areas where a slightly wider plank was required.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Back again and planking. I have been interrupted by all and sundry and this and that but now able to put a few days work in. I have almost completed laying my gun deck planking after a second start and have reached the stage of cutting into my margin planks. I will post again when this is completed and add some images.


onwards and upwards!

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In passing I must pay homage to the accumulated wisdom within these forums (fora?) that led me to the solution of PVA with IPA.



Please forgive my ignorance, but is "IPA" "Isopropyl Alchohol?"  My Initial reading was "India Pale Ale", and I usually reserve that for soaking my insides, but if it is an essential modelling tool, perhaps I need more... ;)


The decking is looking really nice, I love the hatch work.  Are your margin plank templates cardstock? or thin plastic?

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Hi Bob,


The templates are card stock.


IPA is Isopropyl Alchohol. You have given me an idea though. If we combine your !PA with mine then when mine is curing the cock up yours can be soothing the fevered brow. Recipe for success........or another cock up.



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  • 3 months later...

Back after a break to make progress on my Armed Pinnace build (see).


The following three images show work towards the completion of the margin planks which were fitted in four pieces an then further "joints" were added with scalpel.








The hatchways and ladders do not follow the kit but are, I hope, true to the Surprise of this build. The rudimentary stove is made from balsa with scant details applied. I made the hatches and ladder ways as modules and the linings clean up the deck piercings quite well.




















Wiring for LED lighting installed. The small LED seen here is, in fact, too small for large areas but will be used as general gun deck lighting. Larger, 5mm, LEDs will be used elsewhere. All LEDs are "12v" with internal limiting resistors. The exact arrangement of the lighting is not yet determined but pre wiring to all possible areas will sufice for now. No LED will be "seen" only the glow.






Blocking the bows and starting first planking.











Once all the upper planking is completed I intend to sand back, fill, re send then seal and sand again and then apply a base coat ready for final painting.


More anon.


At 04/04/2014.


I have paused this build to concentrate on other projects and also to think about how I am going to solve a rather major misalignment problem. I may have to fudge the issue and simply make it look good where seen. In the mean time a little further progress was made as can be seen from the following 5 images.












That's all for now folks. HMS surprise is signing off for now.





Edited by mikeaidanh
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