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USS Syren by Jaggy - Model Shipways - 1:64

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This is my first build log, and hopefully my first completed ship (I've started a few, now I'm older and wiser and hope to see it through).  I picked the Syren because of the excellent documentation and also the available resources on this forum.  


My kit arrived on Thursday last week.  I will spare you the usual pictures of the box and it's contents as that is well documented already.   In doing an inventory of the box I found I have received four anchors and no ships wheel.  I'm also short on one of the dowels, which was supposed to have 2x24" lengths but I had 36" total supplied.   I emailed model expos parts department but have yet to hear back from them.  This is not wholly unexpected as I've found their electronic communication to be non existent.  When i placed my order I received no confirmation, when it shipped they sent no notice, and when I wrote to ask for a tracking number I got no reply.  Based on that I can only assume they will send the missing part out and it will show up, just unexpectedly.  All that said, I really like model expo and their product.  I just wish the communicated better.


So, on to the build.  I'm following the practicum as closely as I can.  I left my rabbit strip clamped in place overnight so it would take the curve, and then glued it the next day and waited a further 24 hours before continuing. I used that time to clean up the bulkheads (some of which were not fully cut and required quite a bit of surgery to remove from their sheets), and roughed in their bevels.  I also sanded the Stem to fit the figurehead nicely.


The following day I dry fit the bulkheads and measured my bulkhead filler blocks:






I have lots of scrap wood in the garage so the filler was no trouble.  I used maple, because it was at hand, and I thought it would add a nice heft to the finished ship.  That brings me up to last night, when I attached the stem and keep, clamped it up, and said goodbye to Syren for another 24 hour spell.




I'm finding the patience to wait for the glue to fully cure does not come easy, as I'm fighting the enthusiasm of starting off a new build.


Tonight I'm off to see the Canucks (hopefully) beat Minnesota so no progress is likely tonight, but I'm looking forward to fairing the bulkheads next!









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Well Mike, so far no complaints, aside the mistake with the box contents that I assume will be rectified.



Last night I attached the bulkheads, filler blocks and bow filler pieces.  Everything went smoothly, though I did find some bulkheads were very tight fits with the addition of a little glue despite fitting without issue when dry.  Something for me to remember on the next build.  I have one bulkhead that s sitting perhaps 0.2mm proud that I plan to sand down because I dared not try to force it in with a mallet- this despite a perfect dry fit.   I think my glue hardened slightly as I was working and so it was unable to evacuate the volume between the former and the bulkhead.  You probably can't even see it in these photos, minor stuff.


Slightly more alarming is the bow filler pieces.  It seems I over-shaped them before fitting, though I do not think I deviated from the markings on the pieces.  In any case, I made a tiny shim for each and the problem is now solved, as you can see in the abundance of clamps below.




My filler blocks were scavenged from scrap in the garage, cut on a band saw and then either sanded or shimmed with card for an exact fit.  You can see one section has a little bark, which is just an internal curiosity.




For the little platform, I chose to build it out before adding the stern bulkheads behind it.   This let me insert the planks from behind, keeping it very easy to apply the glue neatly.  I followed Chucks advice, simulated my tar with graphite and shipped the treenails and used minwax golden oak.  To add a little interest I give a few plants double or triple applications of the stain.




So, tonight I do another pass at fairing the hull shape and then move on to gunports!







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James - good idea using more or less stain on the planks. I like that look.


Maybe I just don't see it in the pix, but does your keel have notches for the masts?  That just brought back some bad memories with my build. I put the bulkhead filler blocks right up against the keel (and those notches). Then had to gouge out room for the mast heel as the mast diameter is wider than the keel width.


Curiosity question, how would you rate the quality of the deck planks?

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Mike:  There are no notches for the masts, they will have to be drilled.  I expect I will make a tenon that is narrower then the mast base, and drill that diameter.  I expect it will be in my filler blocks, which I think is a good thing, as they are solid hardwood and not the cheap ply of the bulkhead former.


The wood in general is not impressive.  The ply for the bulkheads and BF is cheap, it splinters, it's pretty fragile and compared to the other other kit I've delta with (Amanti Fly) it's definitely inferior.  The decks and hull plank are all basswood or lime.  There are no hardwoods or exotics in the kit, aside some walnut for dead-eyes.   


Despite this, what you are buying when you purchase this kit, first and foremost, is excellent instructions and plans, plus the materials you need all in one box.  Like any kit, you can improve on it with better materials.  As a beginner, I'm very happy with the kit.  I can see where they found some economies, but I'm certainly getting my money's worth in the education in shipbuilding that this project is giving me (Thanks Chuck!). I've read enough build logs to know that a fantastic looking ship can certainly be built with these parts, I know the quality limiter will be me.  I'm not overly concerned about the quality of the ply, it's internal and I've improved it with glue and blocks.  


Here's my progress for the day.  I added the port side lower gun port interior rail, and started sanding the forward portion of it.   





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Lots of progress today. I've finished carving my gun ports and sweeps. I found carving with a sharp blade much easier the sanding, and far less messy. It's not 100% faired yet, especially on the inside, but I'm close. I then started on the stern assembly:








I have found my Dyson hand vac to be one of my favourite ship building tools!

Edited by Jaggy
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Turns out I had some of those stern pieces askew, so today I broke it all apart and set them again, this time with temporary filler blocks at 3 points per piece to ensure everything is properly square. This is a learning experience. I also faired the hull some more.






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Vic: the big 100+ page color instructions that came in the box that you are on chapter two of IS the practicum.


Mikiek: I thought mine were okay, but now I'm mid way through planking the gun ports and I've noticed bad things. I have an asymmetry of height, my port side is perhaps 1mm lower, and so plank 2 and 3 are shaped differently on either side. I think my best option is just to carry on and sand them even on plank 7. Im not thrilled about it at all.


I've also changed my mind about the wood. I find what is supplied is so soft that it's frustrating to work with. When wet it takes impressions easily from very light clamping, and will break apart without provocation. When dry, it's difficult to finish because it's so soft it's almost fuzzy. It is not a friendly material to work with.


Some progress pictures:











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I hear ya' regarding the wood. I switched from kit supplied basswood to boxwood for my Niagara build. Will also be replacing the kit stock from Rattlesnake.


For me the difference is huge.  The wood is cut better, it is harder, it shapes better, sands better and just plain holds up better. Crown Timberyard actually has a Syren wood replacement package.


I keep preaching that, then a reality check. Thousands of people have built thousands of drop dead gorgeous kits with basswood. So what is my problem?   :huh: 

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I keep preaching that, then a reality check. Thousands of people have built thousands of drop dead gorgeous kits with basswood. So what is my problem?


I've thought the same. My answer to that is that I'm new at this and have less skill, and so the fewer obstacles I have to overcome the better my result is likely to be.


That said, I'm almost done planking about the gunports.  It seems rather late in the day to swap.   I don't want to contemplate prying my planks off the bulkheads, I'm sure they would shred.   I've used mainly wood glue, not CA.

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Actually, my bulwarks are done in basswood. That's just how I started out. I will use boxwood when I start the hull. Where the replacement planks really shine is on the deck. For Niagara, you have to lay strakes - don't recall whether Syren has that or a single deck sheet. I also used boxwood square strips for the masts.


The only downside I have come across with boxwood is a lot of the stains that look good on basswood - Golden Oak for instance - look dreadful on boxwood. I haven't found a light colored stain that I like. Something with more yellow in it.

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Some weekend progress:




I keep finding things that looked good only hours earlier suddenly looking quite off in the photo or on the bench after a little detachment.  My sweep ports are terribly uneven for example, yet no one port seemed off when I made it.    Sigh.




Clamping the transom.





It looks better in person, happily.







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Question for you all: Flags aside, if I wanted my ship to be HMS Siren instead of USS Syren, what else would be different? Assuming it was not immediately used as a hospital ship, what would the British have done with her? Would there be more ornamentation, or less? Would they have painted the side in ochre? Has anyone looked into this?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I made some good progress over the long weekend.  





Wood filler trenails




I find the knowledge that copper plates will hide all my planking sins reassuring, though I'm still trying to do things correctly.







Here you can see me applying the wrong sort of wood stain.  Happily it's an area yet to be sanded, and one to be covered in paint and then copper in any case.   So far in the project I've cut myself twice, bleed on the ship once (above), glued my fingers together a few times and glued my fingers to the hull for 40 minutes once.  The worst mishap so far was burning the side of my little finger on the plank bender, that one ended the day's session and smarted for a few days after.




Late last night I closed up the starboard side.  A happy milestone.   Much sanding to follow!



I'm close on the port side, but after a marathon Sunday session I decided not to rush things.


So, that's where I'm at.   I'm really looking forward to finishing this stage up.  I've enjoyed it, but I want to add some color soon!



Edited by Jaggy
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Some more progress to share. I won't narrate much as I'm sure you all know what I'm up too...any questions just ask.


I am now seven weeks in on this project. I've worked almost every weeknight for an hour or two, and many hours each weekend. I do not know if my pace is fast or slow, but I'm enjoying it.






























The wood is so soft my clamps keep marring it. I sand that out, but I'm losing volume as a result. Bah.





Edited by Jaggy
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