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Charles W. Morgan by Landlubber Mike - Model Shipways - New Bedford Whaling Bark - Scale 1:64


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Now that I've shelved my HMS Lyme for the time being to build it as a future scratch build, I decided to start the Charles Morgan by Model Shipways.  I won't get into the politics of whaling, and by building this model I don't mean to glorify that industry, but the ship is a beautiful vessel with a lot of history.  It was built in 1841 and made 37 voyages, processing more whales than any other ship in history.  It was purchased for Mystic Seaport in 1941, where it currently resides as part of the museum.  

 

A couple of summers ago I went to a wedding in Connecticut and took a side trip one day to visit Mystic Seaport and the Morgan with my family.  My daughter had a great time going on the "pirate ship."  :)  It's well worth a visit if you can get out there, with other ships also as part of the collection.  I'm particularly excited to build a model of a ship that I had the privilege of visiting.  I was able to take a lot of pictures, which I'll show from time to time on this log (like the ones on this post).

 

My plans for the build:  The MS kit is based on the configuration of 1892-1908.  I have the Leavitt book on the Morgan, and like the Constitution, the Morgan has gone through various configurations at the stern.  I'll probably build the kit based on the kit's configuration, but I might do a little research to see if there is another that I prefer.  At one time fake gunports were pointed along its sides which is not a look I want to replicate on this build.  

 

Like the Pegasus, I'm planning to paint with wood by either using natural woods or using stains in lieu of paints.  The Morgan is primarily black with white accents, the bulkwarks and deck structures ochre, and the deck somewhat grayish.  At one time I thought about using African Blackwood for the black areas, but was quoted a price of close to $700 for wood to make the build.   :o   A bit pricey, so I think I'm going to go with pear stained black for the black areas.  I still need to think about the white areas - I might use holly, or in the alternative, I found a white stain by General Finishes that isn't too garish and covers wood and metal very nicely.  The ochre areas will be in boxwood, and for the deck, I have one stain that will give that grayish look - but I might try some of the weathering applications out there to see things come out.

 

My goal is to hopefully show the Morgan in a more weathered state - a little rust on the iron parts, oxidized hull coppering, etc.  I also plan to display the model in full sail.  

 

There are a number of other great logs out there from which I will shameless borrow from - Texxn5 (John), Bruce Evans, Gerald Spargo, Joe V, Udo K, Scoot and Homer -- among other logs using other kits.  They set the bar up high which is a good challenge for me to do the best I can do.

 

In case you are interested, the Morgan underwent a big restoration project a few years ago.  There is a real in-depth blog on the Mystic Seaport website which details with great pictures all the work that went into the restoration.  It's amazing how these ships were built in the absence of power equipment:

 

http://www.mysticseaport.org/morganblog/

 

Thanks for looking in!

 

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I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the kit.  The plans and instructions are really well done.  The wood that comes with the kit is mostly basswood and beech dowels, though the bulkheads might be in plywood.  I wonder about using basswood for the keel, and will probably consider strengthening the hull in some areas to keep it straight.  The wood though seems to be of very nice quality.  The cast parts are, well, cast parts and I'll probably look to improve on them.  

 

The nice thing about this kit is that the plans contemplate that the builder will scratch build some parts.  I think that will be a lot of fun.  Plus, there are lots of metal tools and implements, so I will probably have to bug my buddy Ian for metalworking tips. 

 

Not too much progress thus far.  The center keel is in two pieces, so after marking the bulkhead lines and the orientation line from the plans (a very nice touch on the kit to ensure proper alignment), I glued the two pieces last night on a piece of MDF covered with plastic wrap and with heavy weights to ensure that it remained straight.

 

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Hi Scoot, thanks for looking in.  It's great that more people are working on the Morgan right now.  When I bought the kit a couple of years ago, I think John (texxn5) was the only one with an active log.  Now there are a bunch of people either finished or on the home stretch, or starting their builds like us and Joe V.  Will be nice having someone working alongside me as I work through the build.

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Hi Mike. Nice to see you starting the Morgan. Mine has been shelved for months now sue to a major foul up on my part with the framing. Not 100% sure it is salvageable, and I'm too annoyed with it to be motivated to fix at the moment.

 

I'll live vicariously through yours fro awhile. Hopefully you can inspire a re-start... 

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One benefit of getting a blizzard dumping two feet of snow is that I was cooped up in the house and managed to get some work in on my builds.  On the Morgan, the next step is to prep the center keel by adding the rabbet and gluing on the keel pieces and stem.  I'll probably add the stern post after the hull has been planked to help get a clean line into the stern post.

 

I mentioned earlier that I'm going to avoid paint to the extent possible on this build.  The nice thing about the Morgan is that the color scheme is very simple - black, white, and ochre.  For black, I'll use pear stained black.  White I'm still thinking about - either holly or possibly maple, or, if necessary, I will use a white stain from General Finishes.  The ochre areas will be boxwood.  The deck is a grayish color - I have some weathering finishes that I will try out on various woods to see what might work the best.  I'm realizing that this is going to be a little complicated - for example, you don't plank the midship bulwarks.  The bulwarks are essentially the inside face of the first outer hull planking.  So, I'll probably need to use boxwood for the upper hull planking, then add a second layer of planking using pear.  Thankfully there are a lot of detailed logs out there like John's so that I can have a better sense as to things.

 

First thing to do was to recreate the stem out of pear, since the stem is black.  I was a bit worried about using up so much wood in case I needed multiple attempts, so I considered cutting the stem in half and only creating the upper half in pear.  I decided to just go for it because the kit stem isn't a very tight fit against the kit keel, and figured a one-piece stem would be stronger bond.  I'm happy to report that I managed to get it right on the first try (usually doesn't happen).  I traced the kit stem on a piece of pear, cut it out on my scroll saw, then used sanding blocks and my Byrnes disc sander to clean up some of the lines.  I was using 5mm pear which was slightly thicker than the kit's stem, so a few passes in my Byrnes thickness sander and I was good to go.  

 

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By the way, the keel is very fragile.  I have no idea how this piece broke off :(  I wish they had used something stronger like plywood or MDF.

 

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Billet Head

 

The Morgan has a billet head at the end of the stem.  It's a pretty intricately carved piece - here is a picture of it:  

 

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The Mystic Seaport blog on the Morgan restoration also has a nice post on the billet head in case you are interested:

 

http://www.mysticseaport.org/news/2013/the-billet-head/

 

 

The kit adds a cast billet head part, as you can see here.  It's got a little stub that fits into a notch into the kit stem:

 

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It's not really that bad, but I think some of the details can be improved on  So, I think I'm going to try and carve the billet head.  I didn't add a notch into the stem at this time, as I think a better course would be to pin it to the stem so that the joint lines are much cleaner.

 

An observation - from the picture above, it looks like the shape of the Morgan's current stem is a bit different from the kit's stem.  I forget the time period the kit is from, but it looks like the shape is clearly different.  Also, you can barely make out the seam lines on the pieces making up the stem.  Rather than attempt to build a stem from various parts, I think I'll lightly scribe lines on the stem to represent those joint lines.

 

Thanks for looking in!

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Hey Mike, welcome to the Morgan Club - Finally!!! lol Seriously I m glad to see you getting started on this project. I look forward to following you. Let me know if you need anything, I have a pretty good collection of Morgan related info and photos.

John

 

Thanks John, I really appreciate it!  I've been studying your build log and website log quite a bit, it's been very helpful, thank you!  I'm excited to finally start on this gorgeous ship.  Hopefully mine comes out half as nice as yours :)

 

Actually, quick question for you - on the knight heads and stanchions, how did you know how tall to make them?  The plans aren't particularly clear, but maybe I need more coffee.

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Spent a little more time on the Morgan last night.  Finished the important steps of cutting the rabbets/sanding down the center keel at the bearding line, tapering the stem, and installing the stem and keel pieces.

 

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The rabbet/bearding line was pretty easy.  I used a compass to mark the line along the keel, as well as along the bottom and side as a reference line for depth.  I used tracing paper to copy the bearding line off the plans which I then transferred over to the center keel.  From there, it was pretty simple to use an X-acto knife, files, and sanding blocks.  This was one time I was glad the center keel was in basswood, as it was much easier to work than the MDF on my Pegasus (and without the nasty dust you get from MDF).  That being said, I really wish Model Expo used something stronger for the center keel - I busted off another of the thin extensions last night  :angry:

 

Tapering the stem was fairly easy as well.  I used a compass again to mark the center line of the outer edge of the stem as a reference mark to help ensure that I sanded the taper evenly on both sides.  Pear is incredibly nice to work with, as it is tight grained and sands very smoothly.

 

Last up was installing the stem and keel pieces.  I hate this step, as it always seems harder than one would think.  Even with laser cut parts, the stem and keel don't seem to line up perfectly (my pear stem actually worked better than the kit stem).  You want the parts to be clamped tightly to each other, but using rubber bands or clamps runs the risk of the parts not being aligned on a flat plane with each other.  On the other hand, if you glue them with weights on a flat board, then there is the risk that you aren't clamping the parts tightly together.  I started with the stem and used rubber bands, then when it looked like the bond was firming up, I moved it to the building board, added the two keel pieces, sat heavy weights on the various pieces, and used c-type clamps to pull the parts close together.  I said a prayer and went to bed, and thankfully this morning it all worked out  :D

 

Next up is to install some nuts into the keel for the pedestal mounting bolts.  I'm also considering whether to add some dowels or brass rod to help reinforce the center keel and keel pieces/stem.  Seems like a good precautionary step to take, especially since the rabbet reduces the joint line between these pieces. 

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Hi Mike, she's off to a great start. To answer your question, seems like I just measured the height of the rail from the plankshear for the stanchions, and then the same for the Knight heads. The Profile drawing on Sheet 2 shows a scale drawing and you can take that measurement right off the plans. It should be right on the mark. The stanchions were a little on the long side so that they would move up or down to match up with the rail. The Knight head as well as a couple of stanchions are cut into the filler blocks and then trimmed. Hope this helps, you can probably see this in my pictures.

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Hi Mike, things are looking great. Those breakages truly do suck but I guess that's why we have ca glue. Just some food for thought being that you are painting with wood have you given any thought to using Osage orange wood for the ochre? I used it on my Mayflower to simulate a yellow and was quite happy with the results. I am actually thinking of building the masts for my Pegasus using it rather than painting or staining. 

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Hi Mike, she's off to a great start. To answer your question, seems like I just measured the height of the rail from the plankshear for the stanchions, and then the same for the Knight heads. The Profile drawing on Sheet 2 shows a scale drawing and you can take that measurement right off the plans. It should be right on the mark. The stanchions were a little on the long side so that they would move up or down to match up with the rail. The Knight head as well as a couple of stanchions are cut into the filler blocks and then trimmed. Hope this helps, you can probably see this in my pictures.

 

Thanks John, that's really helpful.  I just took another look at your log and think I understand how the framing works with the plankshear, etc.  A few more questions if you don't mind:

 

1.  Did you pre-bevel the bulkheads before installation?  If so, did you find the beveling diagrams in the plans accurate?  I want to pre-bevel the bulkheads given how weak the center keel is, but don't want to over-bevel if the plans aren't accurate.

 

2.  Did you reinforce the keel in any way?  I'm thinking about installing bracing blocks between the bulkheads to ensure that the center keel stays flat.

 

3.  Looking at your pictures, it looks like the short extensions at the top of the bulkheads are used to seat the plankshear.  Are those short extensions covered up in the end by planking, etc.?   From your log it looks like that is case, but if not, I'll need to figure out how to "paint" them in wood.

 

Thanks John!  Much appreciated my friend :)

 

 

Hi Mike, things are looking great. Those breakages truly do suck but I guess that's why we have ca glue. Just some food for thought being that you are painting with wood have you given any thought to using Osage orange wood for the ochre? I used it on my Mayflower to simulate a yellow and was quite happy with the results. I am actually thinking of building the masts for my Pegasus using it rather than painting or staining. 

 

Thanks very much Don.  I was planning on using castello boxwood for the ochre on the Morgan, as well as for the carvings, railings and masts on my Pegasus.  I haven't worked with boxwood yet, but I think it would finish nicely.  I'm going to test it with various finishes, including stains I bought from General Finishes, to get the effect I'm looking for (I have GF Yellow and Amber - the Amber looks very nice, at least on my tests on plywood).

 

Osage orange looks really nice.  I hadn't heard of it before, but just looked it up.  Don't know if you saw this or not, but it turns a darker brown over time:

 

http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/osage-orange/

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Hey Mike: I've heard that about it turning colour over time, the board I have I bought 30 plus years ago and it still hasn't turned that much in colour, possibly mine has Alzheimer's and has forgotten to change colour :)  ;) . It is hard, as Greg has said, but extremely flexible, used to be used for making bows at one time. I would love to try boxwood someday but it is unavailable up here for some reason, the cost of it is a little high and then with the exchange rate the way it is now ordering from the states makes it almost gold like.

Have a Good One

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just came back from a week at Disney with the kids, but had made a little progress on my Morgan before I left.  First up was to house some nuts into the center keel for the mounting pedestals.  I epoxied a couple of nuts for #6-32 machine screws about 3/4" (18mm) up into the center keel:

 

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I ended up cannibalizing the nuts from my Unicorn/Lyme build - the epoxy really held the nuts in place without needing any other support for the nuts.  I originally bought 2" machine screws, but forgot that the screws had to not only go through the model and the pedestals, but also any mounting base.  Thankfully I was able to find some 3" screws which hopefully should be long enough.

 

The kit's instructions had what I thought was a helpful tip to install dowels or rods to pin/support the keel and stem into the center keel.  I never did this on my prior builds, but I figured a little extra support never hurts - particularly since this kit uses basswood for the framing pieces.  I ended up going with brass rod.  I forget the diameter, but I think it was around 1.8mm or so.  At that diameter the rod is pretty sturdy, yet small enough not to disturb the rabbet joint.  Pretty easy to do:  drill a hole, stuff a little epoxy into the hole, then hammer the brass rod into the hole.  Even more fun in that I finally got to use the ball peen hammer that I got as a bonus from my first order with Micromark years ago when starting my first build. :)  I installed four support rods:  three along the keel (one near the stern and one through each joint between the keel/stem pieces) and one at the fore end of the stem just below the copper line).

 

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Made a little more progress on my Morgan this week in adding the bulkheads.  I found I had to open them up a bit to seat them into the center keel, but nothing too major.  The nice thing about the kit is that the plans use a reference line on both the center keel and the bulkheads so that you can make sure that everything is lined up properly.  I found that the center tops of the bulkheads ended up just under the top of the center keel, which gives some wood as a margin so that the deck planking ends up smooth.  Another nice feature was that the plans give the bevel for each bulkhead.  I was a little conservative and didn't sand the bevel completely, but in checking out the planking runs, they actually looked like they were pretty spot on.

 

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The first bulkhead ended up being slightly off square, which is why you see a bit of scrap basswood that I put in between the first and second bulkhead on the starboard side to push it back into alignment.

 

I have to say that I'm not a big fan of the use of basswood for the skeleton of the hull.  The Caldercraft plywood and the Amati MDF were much better in my opinion.  Like other Morgan builders, I snapped off some of the thinner extensions at the top of the center keel  :angry:   Not a big deal in the long-run, but just an annoyance.  The bulkheads themselves split here and there (especially near the extensions) too.  The bulkheads also seemed to have a bit of flex to them that I did not find with the Caldercraft and Amati kits.  I'm considering whether to install additional bracing blocks like the one I used above between each bulkhead to keep them all square.  This was not an issue in my Badger and Pegasus kits due to using stronger materials.

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Hi Mike, my sincerest appologies for not responding to your questions. I just now saw the questions. Somehow, I didn't get the email notice that you had posted. I'll review the questions, check to see where you are at and answer accordingly. I think you have my personal email, so if for some reason you don't get a response in a timely manner please email me. Good progress - I do recall one of your concerns about the tabs that stick up from the bulkheads, and off the top of my head, I think the waterways covered them up. I'll double check for you. I'll be back in touch shortly.

John

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