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Yacht Gjøa by Matle - Constructo - Scale 1:64 - Amundsen's expedition vessel

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This is a log over my first build, the yacht 'Gjøa'. I didn't plan to make a log - having very little spare time I thought I'd spend it building rather than writing, but a few days ago I found myself banging my head with the question 'what was that stain I used on half a year ago?!' Then I realized the value of a log.. especially when the progress is slooow.



I've always been fascinated with polar exploration, not only is it the last frontier (or at least latest, since new frontiers tend to be opened up) but I also admire the lunacy required to venture into these areas. Gjøa was the first vessel to pass the North-West passage, captained by the greatest polar explorer of them all, Roald Amundsen. Being a small one-masted vessel it's also appeared to be a good starter model. And I really like the look of the rig.



Gjøa is a hardangerjakt, which I believe would translate as Hardanger yacht, a vessel typical for the Hardanger fjord area in the 19th century. They were used for fishing and trading and several originals are kept in sailing conditions.


Here's a whole bunch of them:




Gjøa was built in 1872 and when Amundsen bought her in 1901 she had already spent many years sailing in Arctic waters between Greenland, Svalbard and Norway. She was rebuilt with a 13 hp engine and iron reinforcements against ice pressure. Much readings about the expedition through the North-West passage can be found online; I'll just mention that after the three-year long journey Gjøa was left in San Francisco where she stayed on display until 1972, when she was returned to Norway. Recently she was further renovated and now rests in a museum in Oslo together with Nansen's Fram.


There's plenty of pictures of her online, which is extremely helpful. But also frustrating: they show plenty of errors and simplifications in the kit, but more on that later.


I've been taking pictures of the built, so I will make a recap in the following posts.

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The kit comes with quite detailed constructions with plenty of pictures accompanied with short notes on what do in half the languages of the continent. Woods of three very different colours are supplied - I can never remember the exotic names. One is light like pine, another dark like walnut and one red-brownish colour which I've taken a liking too.


By googling I had read rumours about Constructo's flimsy plywood, especially on this model, and wanted to proceed quickly after cutting out the keel and bulkheads. There was a small warp on the false keel already after cutting it free. I tried the method of wetting the concave side with hot water and put it into a jig. Most of the warp was gone the next day, but there was a small twist still on the aft section. This was removed by chopping away wood from only one side when removing wood to allow for the planking: the false keel will only have ½-1 mm of wood left to allow for the 1.5 mm planking on each side.





The bulkheads fitted neatly - only one needed some serious sanding


Here's a hint for future builders of this kit: if you use the kit-supplied bulkheads the lines will not be accurate for the last (or last two) bulkheads! I noticed this much much later, but I wish I'd known it here. The stern bulkhead sits too high/starts curving inwards too close to the deck, to that already the first strakes below the deck start twisting whereas on the original they don't. I'll put some pics on this later to show what I mean, I believe I don't explain it well.



The false deck is a piece of thinner ply, which is to be bent to shape and fastened. This was not problem, it was just the right thickness to bend easily but not be too flimsy:






The instructions had the deck planking as the next point, but I started planking the hull instead. Partly to make the structure more rigid, partly because I figured I would be rough with the deck while planking the hull. This is made with 1.5x5 mm strips from a the red-brown wood. The planking was a big pain somewhere below, with much forcing and twisting and bending the 1.5 thick planks in various unnatural directions they didn't want to bend. The instructions suggested using nails on every bulkhead to keep the planks in place, but I abandoned this after realizing that the thick nails would make the hull look like an inverted porcupine. CA was used at strategic locations to keep the wood in place until the casco-glue set. Here's pic of the first strake:




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There are a lot of images of Gjøa in her current state here: http://www.pbase.com/maritimmodellklubb/gjoa_dekk&page=1
The deck was planked unevenly. I couldn't discern any apparent pattern from the pictures on the original, and went for a more or less random approach, but at trying to keep the butts where I thought it'd be deck beams. It's possible the deck's been repaired, but nevermind:
The original deck was probably pine, so the light look of the kit-supplied  wood should be ok. 
The bulwarks are built up with a laser-cut plywood sheet and planked on the outside. Kit supplied frame extensions to support them are 1x5 mm strips which I replaced with 3x3 mm tapered towards the top, as from the images, see image below. I'm not very happy how the joinery of the deck planks with the marginal turned out: the errors get really apparent on photo...


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About the white bulwarks: I'm going to paint the model as I like the paintjob of these craft, often combinations of green, black, red and natural wood. Here's a few examples: 





Svanhild, re-rigged as a galeas:





And Gjøa herself:




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Recap continuation


The keel and stem are added one top of the finished planking. This was a bit messy as I had to either cut into the planking or sand it down to a form flat even surface to attach the keel on. In the future I'll try to do the "traditional" way - this is also the point where I stopped reading the instructions. No matter how nice the booklet looks, the actual building is not that accurate either and is representative rather than replicating. I'm following drawings and images found on the net.


Some filler was needed to close a gap between the garboard and keel, but this is ok as I will paint it over. The stem was way off from the original, with the propeller sitting far too close to the keel - I ended up re-building the thing from a sketch I took off the real ship (note the freudian slip =). The kit-supplied propeller is a three-bladed affair, so I remade it by cutting off two blades, reshaping the remaining to a much narrower design and soldered a scratch-made blade onto it, wondering how long that'd hold. 





The iron reinforcements and rudder hinges were modelled from brass sheet and rivets from .4 mm rods. 




Below is the finished planking, keel and stem.





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I decided to paint her as she appears now with red below the waterline, black up to the third strake below the deck, two natural strakes and green upperworks and wale. Looking at old pictures I suspect the natural wood strakes were painted white, but I like having some wood shine through and as long as I'm not sure I can convince myself that I can always paint it white later - but hardly the other way around. I also wanted to keep the rather 'used' look, and to accomplish this I will airbrush using much thinner and not using any primer.

So far I've painted the red and the black and like the results to far:



Last picture shows how long my home-made propeller made it... Not sure how to solve that.

The bulwarks have been built up and is only missing the outer planking and caprails. The latter will be green so I plan to dry-fit them, remove and paint off the model rather than mask. The belaying pin rail was reinforced with brass rods through the false frame extensions. The picture below shows the construction after filling and sanding the outside and ready for the planking.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Progress at a snail's pace... the original was built faster  :D




Since the stem and stern are added outside the planking the construction does not feel robust - I drilled four holes front and back nailing them to the hull. I countersunk the holes and filled with a 'plug' of wood filler. The original seems to have the same reinforcements, so I will try to leave some contrast and let it be possible to see them.



I'm building my way up the bulwarks, trying to copy the original as she appears now. Due to the paint scheme I'm following a strange procedure, only attaching the uppermost planks down to the in my case false extruding margin plank. The margin plank will be left natural or painted white (can't decide) and two more strakes will be natural, the rest green. The two green lines below the deck I am trying to shape without glueing, so that they can be painted separately and then mounted without the need of extra heat/soaking. Masking would be too complicated.


What I'm aiming for:




A view of the stern with the first piece of cladding with colour test. I'm redoing the opening for the tiller, not liking the fuzzy oval opening of the kit-supplied bulwark.



The cap rail is also shaped to fit without attaching. I will paint it before attaching since I don't think I will be able to mask the millimeter-high part of the rail on the inside that should be natural. I expect that the top side will have to be sanded and repainted after gluing but that should be ok to do. The almost-straight pieces were made by left-overs from the hull planking, but I couldn't bend it to fit the bow profile. I instead lamintated three 1.5x2 mm strips of the same wood as the hull strips, bending them while gluing. The lines are barely seen unpainted so it should be good afterwards.


Cap rail pieces and a front shot showing the cladding on the bulwarks:




Edited by Matle
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  • 1 month later...

Monthly update  - despite horrible weather encouraging indoor activities I didn't do a lot. Painted the upper part of the hull and started with the backside decorations. I'm thinking to put some gloss lacquer on the wooden parts as the wood looks quite shiny on the vessels still floating. Followed by matt varnish everywhere. Not sure if that will take out the shine too much but we'll see.


This kind of shine, as on her "near-sister" which I had the luck to see during this summer:





Current state of paint. Looking at this image now I think the added planks are too thick... but it'll have to do. I also made a boo-boo by cutting the stem too short - you can see the extra piece I added on top to compensate. I will have to try to hide it better (there are many good reasons to paint :)).



And one with the stern decorations drying. Made them in several laterally bent 2 mm strip pieces.


While waiting for the paint, I started on the deck furniture. I'm trying to built after the pictures and drawings of the original. There are plenty of detailed pictures of her in her current state, but lots have obviously been rebuilt/repaired and not with 100% faithfulness to the state in 1905. I'm trying to follow the few old original photographs and fill in what's missing from the new.


I have more-or-less completed the deck house, the two WCs, the forward companionway, the hatch and started on the large skylight (test of concept picture below).




Trying to figure out how to make the skylight. Testing to carve out recess and using that rock-hard packaging plastic for windows and cut brass tube for the holding ring. In the third post there is a picture from Norwegian maritime modellers' club (http://www.pbase.com/maritimmodellklubb/fartoyer) on Gjøa today showing how it approximately should look except that the windows have been removed now.



Left to do is heavily laden with metalwork: winches, windlass, motorized pump (driven by messenger chains) and the small skylights.Not sure how to proceed, as I'm lacking tools to do especially the round parts and gears.

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  • 3 months later...

A belated thanks for the likes and a small update. Progress will continue to be slow as I'm spending a few hours weekly. 


I'm continuing the work on the deck furniture. A big problem is that the majority of available pictures show her in her present conditions. After the journey through the passage Gjøa spend six-seven decades in San Francisco, and beside a paint job or two, little was done to maintain her and time and souvenir-hunters slowly deteriorated her. After being returned to Norway she was restored, or rather rebuilt as much of the detail is now different. Apparently there were some reconstructing going on just prior to shipping her back, as told in this thread: .http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/11776-help-identifying-some-things-on-the-bulwark-19th-century-merchant-vessel/


Almost no images show her prior to the SF stay. I try to reconstruct her from the images that exist from Golden Gate park. I found some googling around the net but am a bit skeptical on the copyrights as I believe they might be from the old MS kit instructions so I don't want to reproduce... they can be found by googling in any case.  They show the ironworks - pump, winch, windlass (which seems to be different from the one currently on her) and the gears for driving the messenger chain. By the way, the chain will be able to drive the pump as well as the windlass. The winch for the rigging seems to be manual only though as I see no sprocket wheel on it.


Anyway, here the current state of the rail around the mast. I have prepared the pumps as well and am working on the metal work. Similar pumps can be seen on this still sailing yachts.  On Gjøa it could be driven by the engine via messenger chain and the junk on the left side is a guide for the pump handle and the  wooden support for the axle with the sprocket and linkage to the pump handle. I couldn't figure out the construction of the hatch so I just covered it with tarpaulin 




Two shots of the house and the finished skylight. House built by veneer on ply core. Skylight portholes made with clear plastic glued in a recess and fastened with a sliced piece of brass tube of fitting size. The engine was beneath the skylight and the driving shaft will go through a hole through the forward side of it. They still need some detailing and are only doweled to the deck but the slow going is bad for motivation so I needed to see some progress. :)




I don't like that the roof doesn't follow the deck camber but I guess that's how they did it.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you :)




Just to ;mention it, I welcome all sorts of constructive criticism, on the design of the vessel itself as well as on how I build the things. Being new to the craft, I hope to improve anything that can be improved. 




Working in parallel with several parts. I had previously left out the iron reinforcements to the stem, as I had not found info on how it was done. Now, I found this excellent picture (linkie: http://digitaltmuseum.no/011014219978)which shows the bands above the waterline. They correspond pretty well to those on the MS drawings I got a few years back, with every fifth or so band longer than the rest, so I decided to go with that. In addition, the Fram seems to have had almost an identical arrangement at the time, sealing the deal. 


I cut brass strips and simply glued them on with epoxy, being quite apprehensive about ruining the paintjob, which I was quite happy with. As it were, the glue ended up everywhere, but once cleaned and painted over again it turned out ok. First I brush-painted the brass black, above as well as below the waterline, and followed up with a few very thin sprayed coats of appropriate paints. No shade difference between the new and the old painting can be seen, which I was mostly afraid of. The black primer also adds some shadow definition for the red part too. 






I also installed the stern davits, made from cherry (what a joy to cut joints in, compared to the kit supplied wood!). The sheaves are only suggested, with .4 mm holes drilled.  A tricky job to get angles correct. The boom rest was installed after attaching the davits with dowels, fiddling around with the beam until all angles look square, then the davits were marked and mortices cut in-situ.I also simulated the leather protection on the boom rest with tissue paper, soaked with coloured white glue. 





I'm afraid the iphone is not very well suited for taking pictures of small things, but it'll have to do.

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  • 3 months later...

Finally had some time and spent it building the windlass. The current windlass is a replacement I suspect, and based on old photos I believe the original was either a variant of that patented by Bergqvist in the 1850s (fits in time and space as well) as seen on pp 18-19 here: http://www.sjohistoriskasamfundet.se/fn_split/fn29_a02.pdf   - or something quite similar, so I based mine on that. 


 The drum was made by glueing strips of wood on hexagonal pieces of ply, and the central ratchet wheels (or whatever they are called) were made from cable ties around dowels.


A modification had been made on Gjøa, so the windlass could be operated by the in the engine by means of a messenger chain running all over the deck. The mechanism is seen on some of the images I linked. I manufactured the large cogwheel from plastic material, having no means/knowledge of doing that properly in brass. A styrene strip was fastened around a circular centre piece, and cogs were glued to it.



I also installed the bowsprit, carved out of birch.









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  • 4 weeks later...

Gjoa. There. The search-function doesn't work with 'Gjøa' (can't find anything with ø), so I'm just adding the word spelled with o to be able to search for it.  :D




Before setting out on the trip through the North-West passage, the vessel was equipped with a small engine. Besides the propeller, it could  power the pump or the windlass via a messenger chain. A shaft from the engine compartment came out on deck to a piece of equipment designed to change the gear and direction of speed, thereby rotating the messenger chain. Images of it can be seen here as it appears today: http://www.pbase.com/maritimmodellklubb/gjoa_dekk&page=3


Much of the stuff onboard today are replacements or restorations, but I believe this to be genuine. Seeing no possibility on how to make this is in metal to a level of detail I'd be happy with, I resorted to plastics. Styrene sheets were used to make the frames and the wheels. The two axles were made from brass tube respectively piano wire, since I wanted them to be absolutely straight. The two cylindrical supporting pieces were made from . 7 mm brass - they should look a bit dented in any case.

The turnwheels were carved out of wood, but the chain connecting the upper and lower axles were made from 0.3 mm brass wire. I made a jig to create similar links and soldered or glued them together. Some images below, first from the attaching of the chain, the two latter from finished state (with exception of the bolts nailing them to the deck) - I was fearing this part at the onset and has delayed as long as possible, but I'm pleased with the result. It survived a couple of drops to the floor as well...





Placed on the deck:





Painting was made with airbrush and regular brush, Admiratly colours metal black mixed with Vallejo gunmetal . Writing this in case I need to repaint later.

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Thank you for that, it is encouraging. I'm a bit behind in writing, so I will try to catch up:


Next on the list was the chainplates, which in this case are more like rods.  Looking at this old image (http://dms10.dimu.org/image/022sA3QniuFe - a source of much information), it appears the chainplates are fastened to the unpainted wooden strake and not to the wale as they are fastened on the museum ship today. I can't see any backing brackets but this picture ( S/S Svanhild på sjørøvartokt) of a still sailing hardanger yacht (re-rigged with an extra mast) shows small backing brackets that are fastened on the lower wale - this is consistent with the original image of the Gjoa and I went for this construction.

Chainplates are circular in cross section and made from .7mm brass rod. I soldered pieces ot brass tubing to make a hole for the bolt. Bolts were made by filing down the heads on brass pins. Backing links were made from brass sheet, cut, drilled and filed to shape. They became fairly similar, but if I have to do this again, I'd want to try to etch because it's quite a boring job.
 A little jig was made with a brass tube of suitable diameter to make consistent strops - image below. The strops were made from copper thread, flattened in the ends against the plate in the jig. They were soldered directly to the chain plates, in which small recesses were filed to take the strops. I managed to make four chainplates before realizing the strops were too small to pop the deadeyes  in - note to future self, please take better measurements!
Placing chainplates and drilling holes for the nails were made with the traditional dummy-shroud method. Deadeyes were from the kit, seemingly of correct size and shape. I just polished and stained them with walnut.
 The chain plates for the backstays were made in a similar fashion. Instead of deadeyes they are fitted with rings for the says. They can be seen in the image below, showing the finished result bar some touching up. I'm a bit unhappy with the joints between rail and channels, I'll have to be more careful next time.
I also added a bunch of eyebolts and a rail for the staysail sheet.
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  • 2 months later...




Summer's over, at least here, and I've done some of the last work on the fittings. 

First, the skylights. There's two of them, one just aft of the windlass and one on top of the deck house. The image below shows the design. Both are similar but the deckhouse light appears slightly larger. I believe they are original.




I've put this off since it caused me trouble: the protective bars are raised and I struggled to get these thin enough, strong enough and straight enough: the scale diameter is about 0.3 mm and on each lid there's 10 of them in the same amount of millimeters. After three failed attempts I found a method that I was satisfied with, I'll write in detail to remember till next time.


The lid frames were made of brass with the openings for the windows drilled and filed. The bars were made from what the hobby shop marketed as 0.3 mm brass thread*, placed in a jig and bent together, the ends flattened with pliers for attachment to the frame - and greased with solder paste . A jig was made with grooves spaced 0.7 mm apart for the bars and the frame placed on top (upside down, photo below) with the flat areas pre-tinned with solder. Soldering was then made by simply heating the frames from the under side with the frame clamped solidly against the bars. Solder flows nicely to the soldering grease on the bars. Photos below show the frame on the jig and strapped ready for soldering. 




All except one of the 40 bars resisted my stress test, the last being superglued back.  I then made wooden frames with windows inlaid, made from hard transparent plastic, and the metal frames (first painted white) epoxied on top. The lids were then glued on solid blocks and some detail added and then painted white.



Finished result below.






*) the fact that the bars stuck magnetically to my pliers and the golden colour got scraped off makes me suspect I've been duped. It did solder well enough though.

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Gjøa carried three boats, one on the wooden stern davits and two on iron davits. I will probably make the boats last of all, but the davits better go on before raising the mast and its stays. Photo comparison shows the current davits are original. They have a three-sheaved pulley at the end, and simple cleats. See linked photos. 





I made the davits from 2 mm brass, the eyelets or whatever they are called in English, were drilled and filed from brass sheet. The cleats were .4mm brass thread drilled and soldered into the davits. The pulleys were made from three pieces: one making up to two outer sides and the back which sits against the davit. The two inner 'wings' were soldered using positioning jig seen below. Holes for the sheave rod were drilled afterwards. A small positioning rod was drilled and soldered into the end of the davit, a corresponding hole drilled in the pulley which was initially glued to the davit to keep it in place during soldering.





Holes were drilled in the pin rail and the davits test fitted. They still need sanding and several more paint layers, but since the paint tended to be sheared off when inserting into the holes, I first wanted to ensure I had big enough holes in the pin rail to avoid ruining the finished things. Please forgive me for the coin trick, wanted to try it at least once. I think I should have used 1.5 mm brass rod instead, they look slightly too stubby. 




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  • 2 weeks later...

Major milestone reached: I have finally finished the deck fittings. The last item, the pump, has been prepared part-by-part but will be installed after raising the mast due to fragile parts. In the meantime I have drawn rigging plans (the kit plan is far from accurate) of all the rigging and added belaying pins for all the ropes.  I will try to document the plan here so I have it saved. Here's an overview image of the rather crowded deck, the little vessel ready for rigging. I did start with the bowsprit rigging already while waiting for paint to finish on the last fittings, but I will document it in one post once finished - I still haven't installed the bowsprit shrouds. 



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  • 1 month later...

I base the rigging mainly on this image: http://digitaltmuseum.no/011014219978supplemented with numerous photographs of 4-5 still sailing vessels. There are some variations between the vessels in the details, but the overall rigging is quite similar. In addition Gjøa has recently been moved into a permanent indoor museum along with a partial restoration - the new fore rig seems identical to the linked contemporary picture.


There are two chain bobstays. The lower terminates in a tackle with double blocks, and can be re-tensioned with a lanyard, which I belayed on the rail on the windlass.




The dolphin striker was fabricated from a 1 mm brass rod tapered in each end, with a fastening bracket, fairlead and eyes cut and filed from brass sheet and soldered. The ball on the tip is a blob of solder, formed on the iron and carefully slipped onto the rod, careful not to heat too much to make it flow. The whole thing was painted white, as will be most of the iron work on the bowsprit and mast (for ref. caldercraft matt white). Chain martingales were "shackled" (read twisted copper wire with a little solder) to the aft eye and attached through a hole in the cat timbers in the other end. I used epoxy there. The front chain was attached to an eye in a band around the tip of the jib boom.






Whisker booms were made from 0.7 mm brass. The two hooks were made from a single piece .4 mm brass bent to shape and soldered to the boom. Where the two pieces attacked, I file the pieces flat (removed 1/3 of the material) for a good surface to solder and keep the diameter down. They were not attached to the cat timbers, as seen on some recent images, but through the rail a bit behind them. This appears to have been corrected on the real thing in the latest restoration as well. I haven't added any shrouds yet as I will wait until after the stays and anchors.






Below an image showing the current state. I have also attached gammoning and blocks for the jibs and square yard fore braces (the latter are the blocks on the sides of the tip of the bowsprit).  Still have some stray pieces of rope to cut, but I haven't got a good tool to do it with (my blunt scissors produced results for the bin), so it'll have to wait.



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  • 2 years later...

This was put on hold due to an upcoming move - I did not want to raise the mast before moving across countries. The move got postponed and postponed again. And now I am tired of its unfinished state. If the move does come and the model breaks, ah well, at least I tried and I’m truely sour how I bungled the deck planking anyway - I see the rest as practice.


I added the mast and have begun with the shrouds. The upper dead eyes were connected to hearts (or whatever is the English term? - the white teardrop things) as was common in those days, and the shrouds looped around the hearts. How I made the hearts I do not remember, but the brackets are all brass.

 I have attached the first shroud on each side: now I’m trying to find out just how hard I should pull before permanently attaching the lanyards.







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