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Henry Grace a Dieu (Great Harry) by Louie da fly - Scale 1:200 - Repaired after over 40 yrs of neglect

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I built this model of the Great Harry back in about 1970 when I was a teenager. I'd previously made models from plastic kits and carved from solid blocks of wood, but this was the first time I'd tried a plank-built model. It was based on the reconstruction in Bjo"rn Landstro"m's excellent book The Ship, which showed a copy by the author of the Anthony Roll illustration of 1545, and the author's conjectural reconstructions of a midship section and a side view of the ship above the waterline.


All of this was before the raising of the Mary Rose, so it was based on far less information available than we have now. I drew up a set of plans and proceeded to build the model. I got the hull complete and painted, added masts and spars and sails, and was adding shrouds, deadeyes and ratlines (nowadays I'd do this before I added the spars, but I've learned a lot since then). I even had a couple of figures on deck and another in one in the mizzentop.


Unfortunately I'd made the stern far too wide and when I saw another picture of the ship by the same author, showing her with a far narrower stern, I decided to pull the stern off and fix it.


Then life got in the way. Suddenly I had to move to the other side of Australia, about 4000 km (2500 miles) away and never got a chance to revisit the model. It stayed in its box, getting progressively more damaged as I repeatedly moved house. I've lost track of a lot of the stuff that broke off over the years, the sails went dark brown and started to rot.


Finally, after all these years I've had the chance to revisit and, I hope, return the ship to her former glory.




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The frames were built up from balsa wood, butt-jointed together with PVA glue. It's rather amazing that it all held together all that time, but PVA glue is amazingly good (though I was a bit over-liberal with it) and balsa is stronger than most people give it credit for.


The planking, superstructure and the masts and spars were made of Queensland Walnut, a native Australian timber from the laurel family. I bought a single long sheet of veneer and made everything from that. The masts and spars were made from many layers of veneer glued together with PVA and then carved to shape.


The paintwork was done with Humbrol enamel and the cordage was sewing cotton. The ratlines were simply glued to the shrouds.


I was about 19 or 20 when I made this and I think it holds up quite well, considering. I'd certainly do a lot of things differently today, but given my age, ignorance and lack of experience at the time, I think it's pretty good and deserves to be preserved and restored.


I've taken out several of the frames and will be drafting up  new set to allow a smooth transition to the narrower stern. I couldn't get the foremast out of the hull without causing damage, so I've left t in place.


I'll probably still use balsa - it won't be seen and time has shown it's certainly strong enough for the job. Basically what I want to do is fix the ship up as I would have done back then if 'd had the opportunity, as it shows where I was at the time. The only things I'm likely to change in the light of present knowledge is to make the underwater section rounder in line with the Mary Rose discoveries, and make the rigging more complete, as I've learnt quite a lot more about it in the intervening years.






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Brian: No, I drew the plans myself based on the reconstruction drawings in The Ship. Took a lot of work, and I'm amazed it worked so well, given that the only shapes I worked out were the frames themselves - I didn't know about the other "lines" one normally uses when designing a ship.


Jbshan: Yes, it's a lot easier that way. I've already drawn up the shapes of the frames to replace the ones I took out, and I'll just be gluing a bit of balsa onto the outside of the ones I keep and cut them to the desired rounded shape.


Druxey, on reflection I think I may have even been 16 or 17 when I started on this. When I was 20 I was drawing up plans for a model of the Batavia (which I never built), so the Great Harry must have been complete by then. My only regret is that I didn't take a photo of her at the time. I even built a longboat out of very thin bamboo (taken from an old roller blind) - unfortunately long since lost. I put it in a safe place . . .


I cheated a bit when I made the original model, though in retrospect I think I actually made things harder for myself. Rather than individual planks, I made wider "planks" and then carved them to look like there were individual ones of the usual width (you can see it if you look carefully at the photos above). I won't do that again - the curves in the wider planks were very complicated and I didn't have the skill to cut the grooves between the "planks" well enough to make it all look tidy. Interesting, though.


Next thing is to remove the planking of the superstructure - I'll try to keep as much as I can intact, but with the different curvature I think I'll have to adjust the joins between the wide "planks" somewhat to follow the curve properly.


Thanks everybody for the "likes".



Edited by Louie da fly
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Here are the only contemporary pictures of the Great Harry, from which Landstro"m did his reconstruction. The first is from the Anthony Roll of 1545 and the second is from a picture representing Henry VIII's embarkation at Dover for the tournament at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France. Though it depicts an incident from 1520, it is thought to have been painted about 1545.


Note that both pictures have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Firstly, they disagree with each other. Also, the forecastle on the Anthony Roll depiction seems to be far too large, the number of guns is probably wrong etc etc - but it has some interesting details, such as the crown on a 'spritsail mast'. Given that  a "rose" emblem depicted as a figurehead on the Mary Rose in  the Anthony Roll has been discovered among the remains of the ship, I'm prepared to believe the Great Harry had a decorative crown.  


The Embarkation picture shows a square sail on the mizzen and there are several other errors - but it does show the sails as painted to represent cloth of gold, which is in keeping with decorated sails on near-contemporary ships, and I will endeavour to replicate this on the model. Generally, I'm going to be following Landstro"m's interpretation, as I did when I began the model.


I've worked out the shapes of the replacement frames, and they're shown below. The one in red is the midship frame as it it at the moment, with a black addition showing how I'm going to round it out.






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Your original cross-section looks closer to contemporary evidence than your new 'rounded' section, Steven. The illustration shows the Mayflower II reconstruction from the 1950's compared with a hull form derived from contemporary instructions circa 1600. I know it's later than your ship, but things did not change that quickly.


Edited by druxey
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That's very true, Druxey, and Landstro"m got his midships section for his Great Harry reconstruction from William Baker's diagrams.


But as you say, these were quite a few decades later, and we now have the evidence of the Mary Rose, which was almost a sister ship to the Great Harry (they were built and rebuilt at almost exactly the same time as each other - but the Great Harry was one and a half times the size of the Mary Rose).


I'm taking Mary Rose's shape as being more representative of the period, and that's why I'm changing the midship sections, as that way they'll be much closer to the Mary Rose.



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I've decided I'll have to strip most of the planking off after all. I'd hoped to keep a lot of it and just change the frames, but I got a lot of splitting when I was separating the old frames from the planking and it looks like I'll just have to discard most the old stuff and re-do it. I should be able to keep the forecastle, though, as it won't be affected by the changes.


I've roughed out the new frames in balsa, as the original frames were. Still have to trim them down smooth. I realize they look pretty rough, but they'll be invisible and they'll do the job. As I mentioned above, this project is basically to restore the ship to the way it was when I built it - sort of a snapshot in time -  and at the time I wasn't all that careful  with stuff you wouldn't be able to see . When I start the next project I'll be taking much more care to get everything precise. 


Below are pics of the ship as it is at the moment. I've still got to get the rest of the planking off that needs to be replaced, then I need to get some veneer that matches the original (the suppliers are currently off on Christmas holidays), and get started on fixing her up properly.


Kees, though the information is somewhat limited, there's far more out there than you might think, in archaeological finds, contemporary illustrations and academic papers. Have a look at Woodrat's excellent nave tonda thread to see what I mean.





Edited by Louie da fly
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  • 2 years later...

Back to the Great Harry after a delay of over two and a half years.


All this time I've been working on a folding table in my wife's sewing room/ironing room, which also doubles as a bedroom for the incontinent old dog (which means we have to mop the floor every morning and can't leave a chair on the floor).



Just this week we finished converting the sitting room/library/spare bedroom, so I've finally got a dedicated space to work on models which has storage space, a nice big desk with drawers in it, a chest of shallow drawers, and overhead shelves for reference books and tools and two more shelves each with enough vertical room for a ship model, masts and all. Not as much light here as in the other room, so I'm going to have to work on that. I hate working with insufficient light.



So now I can work on the Great Harry when I'm stuck/bored with the dromon. I've put together a little stand to hold her upright while I'm working on her.


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My first project will be to re-do the frames I made two and a half years ago as I've realised the flat stern extends well below water level, which would stop water flowing past the rudder.


Looking forward to it. The ship's been sitting there sneering at me far too long . . .



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Thanks, Roger. Is there much explanatory text in it? I have the pictures themselves, but background text might indeed be useful.


The other vessels on the Roll are also very interesting - I've thought of doing a 1:200 model of each class of vessel to go with the Great Harry - the roo barges, the "galeasses" (really they seem to be missing oars entirely and are more like galleons) and the galea subtile . . . but there's even less information available on them than on the Great Harry.  Might be fun, though.



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I haven’t gotten into the book yet.  There are a number of short introductory chapters on different aspects including comparison of the Mary Rose picture with the archeological findings.


The real guts of the book is a reproduction of the three parts of the Anthony Roll.  Along with each picture is the written notes that accompanied the picture, typed but in their original spelling.  The book also includes several appendixes one of which is a glossary.  More usual than the usual since it defines many archaic terms.



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45 minutes ago, woodrat said:

Is this a sentimental journey?

Of course it is! Old memories, and regrets that I made a model of this quality as a teenager, almost finished it, then pulled it to bits and neglected it for decades. And a determination to eventually do it justice.


45 minutes ago, woodrat said:

Why not just start again, it might be easier

Don't think it hasn't occurred to me. But I really think it deserves better of me after all these years.


Patrick, I've already got a copy of this thesis, but you've inspired me to have another, closer look at it and I'm seeing things there I'd never noticed before, so thank you.


Roger, I have all the pics and contemporary descriptions from the Anthony Roll (they're downloadable from the Net), but they're not in book form, just digital, and perhaps the quality isn't as high as in the book.


The appendices and glossary would be very useful, too. Terminology has certainly changed over the centuries.


I've done a little investigatory work on all this (I find language fascinating!), which I've put up at 


for those who are interested in this kind of thing. I find it particularly interesting, for example, that the 16th century word for boatswain is botisman. The word swain for "man" is very old (dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, and the Scandinavian name Sven is the same word).




Edited by Louie da fly
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Doing repairs to the existing structure. I intend to keep as much as I can of the original model, though some of it is in pretty poor condition I think a lot of it can be repaired.


Here are the sides of the aftercastle made up of strips glued together, with arches cut out of the individual strips where the gunports are.


Here they are seen from the back, with remnants of the frames and decks still attached. I was VERY enthusiastic about white PVA glue when I made this model - I seem to have slopped it on with great abandon. I've taken a tip from (I think) Druxey and used methylated spirits to help dissolve the glue. It seems to work, but there's a LOT of glue and it's over 40 years old. The metho seems to soften the glue, however, and make it easier to remove with a scalpel. The idea is to get back as close as possible to bare wood before I put it all together again. Note that I was clever enough when I was 17 to glue paper to the back of the strips containing arches, to keep the wood from splitting. I remember I used a tiny woodcarving gouge to cut the arches.



The pieces below have had the metho and scalpel treatment, and are quite a bit better than when I started. Still a bit more work to do, but making progress.




There were breaks in these panels even before I started work and they broke a bit more while I was removing them. Because the shape of the aftercastle is to change (it will become narrower at the stern), these strips will have to be separated and glued back on individually.


Here is the main channel which broke off the ship at some point. I've taken off the glue and will glue it back on when the time comes. The matching face of the channel is still attached to the ship, so it shouldn't be too hard to put it back on.



One of the frames was a little fragile and likely to bend under the forces of the new planking, so I've glued a reinforcing piece to strengthen it.


One of the solid bits of balsa that acted as cant frames seems to have vanished, so I've replaced it.

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Bowsprit broke at some time, but the break was clean and fitted together well, so I just glued it back in one piece. The mend is about half way between the chain and the end with the grapnel.



Snapped fore yard glued back together. 



The sails were made from waxed drafting linen (extremely finely woven fabric), which I'd washed in hot water to remove the wax. After over 40 years they have all gone dark brown and the linen has deteriorated quite badly. So all the sails will have to be replaced. I'm keeping the old ones to use as templates.


One of the things that really got on my nerves even back in the day was that I'd made the keel out of balsa, and even though I'd stained it to match the Queensland walnut of the rest of the model, it looked like - balsa. So I'm making a replacement keel out of walnut - you can see the pencil outline below. I'll trim the balsa keel back where the existing frames are still in place, and it'll be full size from there on back to the stern. I'll be doing the same to the stempost at the bow.







Edited by Louie da fly
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That's right - I remember we had a discussion about that, and though metho was an unknown quantity it appeared it might still work. Isopropanol is probably difficult to get hold of here, but you can get metho at the supermarket for next to nothing. I decided as I didn't have isopropanol but I did have metho I'd try that first, and it seems to have worked.  



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  • 1 month later...

Sometimes when I'm working away at the dromon build, I look over at the Great Harry looking all forgotten and neglected and have a bout of conscience. So I've done a bit more in the last couple of days. I'd always intended to replace the balsa keel with something a bit more decent, so here are a few photos of what I've been doing.


The keel re-made in walnut (from the dead tree next door, kindly donated by the neighbour)


Despite the look of the photo, there isn't really a great gouge out of the keel. It's just a weird reflection from the timber. I made it out of a single piece of wood, as I'm trying to replicate my state of knowledge and skill when I originally built the model at the age of 17. I have introduced a few changes in the light of my current (hopefully more advanced) understanding, but not too many.


And making up a cardboard template for the stempost. Quite a lot of failed attempts but finally got the shape right.


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PS: Druxey, in case you didn't see it in the dromon build, I've discovered isoproanol is MUCH better than metho for dissolving PVA. Ah well, another theory down the drain.





Edited by Louie da fly
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I've cut away the stern section of the balsa keel so I can replace it with the new walnut one, which you can see below the ship, along with the new stempost in walnut.


I'm leaving part of the balsa keel in place where there are already existing frames which aren't to change, and cut it back level with the bottoms of the existing frames so that only the new walnut keel will show. 


I've shaved the old stempost down to allow a "slot" for the new exposed walnut one to fit into.

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Here's the new stempost and keel dry fitted. The keel is still a bit too thick and needs to be thinned down before gluing can take place.

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You might be able to see a small gap between the stempost and the forrard end of the keel. I've since fixed that using a bit of trimming and juggling back and forth.


And here is the new stempost from forrard (still dry fitted).

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There was a lot of trial and error getting the new pieces to fit smoothly, but it all worked out in the end.




Edited by Louie da fly
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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the likes.


I discovered I'd made  the frames too narrow for a smooth curve of the hull where they were supposed to be. Not too much of a problem - I just moved them sternwards till they fitted within the curve. The furthest aft frame stayed where it was and I glued it in place. I had to work out some sort of temporary jig to get it square to the hull and the keel - voila! Pins and a couple of bits of balsa.


Clamped the jig to the keel with a clothes peg and glued the frame in place. When I wanted to remove the jig, I just pulled out the pins.

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Then I clamped the existing planking to it with clothes pegs to get the curve I wanted, placed the next frame so it just reached the inside face of the planking on both sides and glued it in place using the same type of jig.





And same technique with the third frame from the stern/


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Now I need to make some more, wider frames, which will fill the gap forrard of the ones I relocated.




Edited by Louie da fly
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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the difficulties will be matching the newly restored sections of the deck and hull to the original surviving portions of the wreck. You may wish to consult some of the MSW members who have expertise in "aging" wood. Or, alternatively, as archaeologists do, leave the restored portion obviously different to showcase the restoration.

Good work so far


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