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US Brig Syren by MD11pilot - Model Shipways - 1:64

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Hi all.


Yup, another Syren.  It's popular for good reason - a quality kit, Chuck's detailed instruction set, lots of Forum support, and it's a gorgeous little ship.


This is my first ship model.  Yes, I know, it's too ambitious for a first build.  But I've been a hobbyist, woodworker, do-it-your-selfer all my life so I thought I'd dive into the deep end.  If I want to learn the entire skill set needed for my ultimate dream boat, the Surprise, then I need to practice on a ship that has all the same elements.

Feel free to chime in if you see me heading in the wrong direction.  I don't plan to stray from Chucks practicum, so hopefully I wont make any irreparable errors.


While waiting for the Syren to arrive, I set up shop in the basement using an old computer hutch as my work station.  Gathered all my hobby tools and purchased a few more.  Found some great ideas for planking clips on other folks logs, so I made some of those too.


The kit arrived in fine shape - good packaging by Model Expo.

Initial impressions very good.  The hardware kit is very complete.  Glad to see the bags of blocks/deadeyes - thought I was going to have to make all of 'em.  Back in the day, I built RC airplanes just when laser cutting was coming on the scene.  It has come a long way.  The laser cut parts in this kit are very precise and crisp.


So after a cursory inventory of all the included parts and a day of reading through the manual it's finally time to start making dust......






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I know we've chatted before but this is the official  'Welcome aboard, mate'.


As a first time model shipwright, make Chuck's practicum your bible ----- it's what got me to where I am.  That and the help you'll find here on MSW.


I see you've made sanding blocks ---  you're 1/2 way home :D


Looking forward to your build.  And enjoy your maiden voyage!

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Chapter one:

Clamped the BF into a desktop "Workmate" to straighten a slight warp.  Soaked and formed the rabbet strip.  Glued it on the next day.  I'm using "Gorilla" brand wood glue.  I like it.  It "grabs" rapidly and is tough stuff.


Cut in the taper to the rabbet.  It gets interesting at the aft end where the taper area is large - the grain of the different layers of ply want to fight your blade.  But with a combination of a wide blade X-acto, a chisel, and sandpaper, I got 'er done.


Tapered the fore end of the stem.  Added the stem knee and keel as one step.  I purchased a small bucket of assorted binder clips.  Glad I did.  I'm finding them very useful.





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Whew........glad you broke out the deskmate to get rid of the warp.  We've seen a bunch of those bulkhead former warps on MSW lately and they simply MUST be addressed immediately.  Once you get the filler blocks in after the bulkheads are set that warp will only be a memory. Trust me, those fillers will give her the strength and straightness of a Louisville Slugger.  A warp now would be like a warped wing on an RC plane (I see you've been involved with that).  NICE CATCH.


Now take your time and get your bulkheads in nice and square.

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HI Eric

Welcome aboard - I am just a little in front of you on my Syren build - I am in the gun port framing chapter a few pages way from you - Augie and Chuck have been very helpful to me so far - glad to see another build - I always get good ideas from others



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  • 2 weeks later...

Making a little progress after getting back in town from a trip.


After attaching the keel and knees and letting the whole thing sit in the DeskMate for a couple of days, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the BF warp was completely gone.




Now time to add the bulkheads.  I found one that was missing a sizable portion of the middle ply and the bulwark extension was hanging by just a thread of the outer ply.  The picture is not so good, but you get the idea....




What to do, what to do?  I braced the bulkhead  and shot it full of expanding foam.  After it cured, I carved off the excess foam and hardened the exposed surface of the foam with some glue.  Came out pretty good I think.  Was a lot easier than trying to carve wood to fit exactly in the hole.






Gluing in the bulkheads trying to be very precise with alignment....






It is no secret that the bulwark extensions on the bulkheads are fragile.  But, in my kit, they were extra flimsy.  I think the laser cutter was set too hot.  Instead of making a nice little line on the surface of the wood, the reference lines burned thru the first ply and, in some cases, half way thru the center core.  You can see how that would make them even easier to break than normal.  I think I probably broke off half of them at one point or another.  If you're getting ready to start your own Syren, you may want to dab some CA on these reference marks before you remove the bulkheads from the plywood sheets.

Has anyone else had this problem, or was I just the lucky one?




Out into the garage for the next step.  Going to make lots of sawdust cutting and fitting the filler blocks.


Used balsa filler blocks to stiffen things up.  Shaped and sanded the filler blocks to match the bulkheads. 


Used a drum sander on a drill press to do the initial shaping/faring of the bulkheads. 




Back inside to start working on the gun port framing.  Used a batten and the gun port template to find a nice line across the hull.  Turns out the reference lines on my kit were dang close.  My line never varied by more than 1/32" from the reference marks.  This step is just a lot of cutting, trimming, sanding, and gluing.  Kind of relaxing.  I found that Binder clips really helped with the sills.  After dry fitting, the binder clips make a nice little shelf to sit the sill on when gluing it in and help to keep the sills nice and level.




To make it easier to install the lintels, I made little 15/32" spacers.




Now I didn't have to worry about measuring anything.  Just sit the lintels on the spacers for perfect parallel installation.




Now it's back out into the garage to sand the framing down to match the bulwarks....



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Eric, It is great to see your log. I agree those binder clips are the best tool and even better for the price. I don't know what you do for work but I picked up about 3 dozen of them in my companie's office supplies. If you look around you will find a thread I posted on how to modify them to use for planking clamps. You mght have found that particular modification useful for your sills.


Another suggestion that I have found quite useful. I went to my local Home Depot and bought a piece of aluminum angle iron. I used my hack saw to cut it into 4 inch lengths. I then used the resulting pieces as to clamp with my bulkheads. I now use them over and over on all my models. The glue does not stick and it the holds the bulkheads square. In about 6 months I will get back to my Syren and post that log.


Keep up the great work I will be following you!


By the way normally I would agree with you this is a challenging project for a first model. But with the great design and wonderful practicum from Chuck and all the help here. I don't think it will be any issue at all.


Edited by Floyd Kershner
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Floyd, thanks for checking in.  One of the first things I did to get started while waiting for my kit to arrive was to make some of the tools I found here in the Forums.  I thought your idea for the planking clips was brilliant so I made up a bunch of them.  It wont be long now before I can put them to use.

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Sanding the sill and lintels to match the bulwarks.  I started with the big sander.  It takes off wood in a scary hurry, so I had to use a light touch.  One slip and I'd be rebuilding big sections.  I got away with it.




Back to sanding blocks and files to do the inside curve.




Trying to get the "graceful" curve.  Satisfied so far.




The tops of the sweep ports need to be 1/8" above the sills, so I made these little spacers to help make the job easier.  The little tail on the spacers helps keep the spacer in place and makes sure I don't accidentally place the spacer in place with the wrong side facing up.





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Hi and nice start on your Syren.


I noticed your comment about the laser marks on the bulkheads were too deep causing the extensions to be fragile, Yeh this has been seen quite often and you are not the only one, seems to be a MS production problem with both the Syren and Confederacy, many syren builders and me on the first Confed here have had it, I agree everybody should take a few minutes to look for this issue when they start their build.


That picture of a belt sander you used scared me to death and I'm glad you got away with it, I would never of dared use something like that on a model.


Look forward to your progress.



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Hi Eric,


I never tire of looking at the Syren. You have a great build going on and your log is most informative and interesting. I have to admit you have courage and touch using the belt sander, yikes!! Look forward to more of your build.







Hopeful aka David



“there is wisdom in many voices”



Completed: Sharpie Schooner (Midwest) Posted on kit build log.


Current: Sultana (MSW) Updating the build log and continuing on with the build



Next: Lady Nelson (Amati Victory)


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  • 3 weeks later...

Been out of town a lot lately so the build is progressing at a snails pace.  Before I left I was able to finish the stern framing.  Seems like a simple step, but had it's own little challenges.  Getting those gun port sills and lintels level fore-aft as well as side to side on the steeply sloping stern frames was tricky.  Plus, the lintels are not directly over the sills, so getting the required spacing was an unexpected problem.  I clamped a piece of wood across the back of the stern level with the sills which allowed me to use those gun port spacers I made earlier.




Then it was off to work......

Had a nice layover in San Francisco.  I always stop by the Balclutha.  It's a giant iron monstrosity of a sailing ship but still fun to look at.  I spent a lot more time staring at the rigging now that I'm into this hobby.


And who could go to San Fran without getting some seafood and sour-dough bread.  It's even better to have them at the same time!





Back home after a couple weeks.  Time to get to work. 

Next step is to establish the proper line for the uppermost wale plank.  I first pinned a batten following the reference marks on the bulkheads.  Since I'm new to this and have very little personal opinion on how things "should" look I could find no reason to stray from that line.  It looked pretty good to me.  So the wale planks went on, and I got to work on the gun port planking. 

Chuck makes a couple of statements in the instructions about each plank being a little project, and if you're not satisfied with a plank, throw it out and try again.  Now I know what he means.  Each plank on the second row will usually touch four or five gun or sweep ports.  Cutting the notches is precision work and if you mess up one of the notches, the whole plank is ruined.  One of those first planks took me five attempts.  I almost threw the whole damn model in the trash.  But you do get better, quicker, and more precise on each plank.  So, If you're a newbie like me, have faith and do NOT throw the model out the window.  For no particular reason I started on the starboard side.  I should do all my "firsts" on this side -- planking, coppering, rigging, etc.  I have a feeling this ship is going to have one side that looks much better than the other! :wacko:




Starboard gun port planking on and a light first sanding.




Port side planking in progress.  I expect it will go much quicker.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Hi - I'm just starting MS Syren and I too have a seriously warped bulkhead former.  I've tried soaking it then applying weight; soaking it then applying clamps; applying weight to bend the opposite direction.  Currently it is clamped, top and bottom, and I'll apply steam.  So far, it still curves.  Sent a msg to MS and was told it was forwarded to Parts Request for replacement - that's the last I've heard.  Otherwise I like the kit, especially the instructions; but, this warped former is annoying.

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Hi Robert,

I'm very much a novice so my advice isn't worth much, but I found that if you clamp that warped former while you compete the first few steps, the warp will come out.  And when you add the stiffening blocks between the bulkheads, you can tweak it a little more simply by adjusting the "tightness" of the blocks.  Good luck with your project.  Mine has been "on hold" for the best part of a year due to a variety of higher priority life issues.  Hope to get back at it soon.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi gang, it's been a while.  I've finally resumed building and have a little progress to report.  I warned you that I may set a record for the slowest build in history.  

First of all, I have been catching up on all the Syren build logs and I am just stunned by the precision and quality of the work I see on your pages.  You folks are a true inspiration to newbies like me.

So, here we go...

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