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18th Century Longboat by Cathead - FINISHED - Model Shipways - 1:48

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Ahoy, it's yet another longboat! Last fall, looking ahead to the completion of my steamboat Bertrand scratchbuild, I wanted my next project to fulfill three goals: have good instructions to give my brain a rest, let me develop & practice skills like planking & rigging before tackling a larger ship project, and not be too large.


I settled on this little model back in September, when Model Expo had their special offer to buy any kit 50% off, then send them photos of the completed model within a year to get the other 50% in store credit. I bought the two naval cannon kits and this one, figured that I'd have Bertrand done by the end of the year, and should be able knock those three out in the remaining nine months. Well, here it is about March, and the two cannons are done with the longboat underway. So in effect, this is a "free" kit if I can finish it by September. I think that's plenty doable.


Here's the kit laid out on my reasonably organized workspace, a plastic "market" table set into a cedar frame I built from the abundant red cedar we log & mill on our farm.




My mind doesn't think easily in small fractions of an inch, so I took a pencil and labelled the end of each wood strip or bundle as I worked out its identity on the parts list. This way, every time I want a piece, I won't have to measure a bunch of different strips to figure out which one I want. Light pencil is easy to remove as needed.




We're about to head down and visit the Arkansas in-laws, so not much more will get done in the next week, but I'm too excited to get started not to at least post the log. This will be a fun change of pace from the Bertrand, and will be a nice complement to the MS Bounty Launch I built before that; there's even a space on a bookshelf reserved for the finished model.


Thanks in advance to any of you who tune in; I hope I can add something to the collected knowledge of this great kit.


Edited by Cathead
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Huzzah for weekends!


Assembling the keel. I made a paper pattern to transfer the rabbet line to the non-marked side.



Attaching the bulkheads. I didn't feel like assembling a build board that wouldn't be used beyond this step, so I came up with this approach instead. The keel is clamped to two large squares, which in turn hold each bulkhead square. I started amidships and worked out, doing two bulkheads at a time. I had previously traced square lines on each bulkhead, and used a third square to ensure each one was vertical relative to the keel, along with the eye test. This worked really well. For the last few small bulkheads, when there wasn't enough keel/stem left to clamp to, I just did it by eye and it came out fine.



Stiffening the bulkheads. I used thin scrap left over from another project, and glued a thick square in the middle, the use of which will soon become apparent. I made sure that all the braces stayed within the part that will be removed. I also attached the bow fillers at this stage.



Here's the frame, transom attached, all faired. It's a gorgeous day here, sunny and warm, so I simply sat on my porch and sanded away, cradling the hull in my hand and lap. Nothing beats full sun for detail work.



Closeup of the bow after fairing. Does it look right? Test strakes seem to fit well.



And here's why I attached that square chunk on top. It's sized to fit in my handy movable cradle, so that I can plank the hull while rotating it and holding it in any orientation I desire. I'm happy to say I haven't broken the stem yet, and I'm hopeful I can avoid it for good now that the worst handling is over.


Anyone see anything wrong before I start planking?

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The first two strakes are done; I felt they went on smoothly and looked good.




Then I discovered that I'd made a significant mistake. Despite obsessively rereading various build logs and the instructions, I did something wrong. Can you tell what it is?




That's right, I was supposed to leave a gap above the sheer strake, at the stem, to allow for the cap rail to fit. Now that I see it, it's obvious in many other logs, on the plans, and in the instruction photos. I have the rest of the strake set out just right, a bit below the tops of the bulkheads, but without thinking I ran the sheer strake all the way up the stem to the end of the rabbet. It's supposed to look like this.


I'm not the first to do this. Stuntflyer did the same thing, and in fact I discovered my error by reading his log, which I apparently hadn't before. I got to that point, and my stomach lurched. However, the ensuing discussion makes it clear that it's a reasonable fudge to just sand down the sheer strake to create that notch/platform for the cap rail, as Stuntflyer did here. His model came out beautifully.


So that's what I'm going to do, unless anyone has advice to the contrary? Does the rest of the planking look correct, or are there other concerns that would suggest I should take these two off and start over before I'm in too deep?

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The strakes look a little high to me.  I tried to get mine to be to the same height as Chuck's original, after also reading about Stuntflyer's issues in his log.  I don't know if it matters or not though.  Here's what mine looked like:





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Sometimes mood is everything. By Friday evening, I was feeling a tad frustrated, having struggled over and over to get my planking right. I'd decided to do things properly, so carefully removed my first attempt, re-faired the frames, and started over. The first plank went on fine again, but I just wasn't getting the hang of bending the planks in three dimensions, and things kept either buckling or not lining up. Finally I just went to bed.


This morning, I took a deep breath and started anew, changing focus to the garboard planks and the next strake up. These allowed me to practice solely edge-bending a plank, and I started to get the hang of it a bit, so went back to work on the sub-sheer strakes again. I was having fun and feeling good again, and something finally clicked, at least a little.


I also realized after some experimentation, that I may have over-faired one of the forward bulkheads. Gluing in a little filler strip and filing it to shape definitely helped with forming the planks properly. A fresh approach let me see that, whereas the night before I was just bulling ahead with blinders on.


The results, as of this afternoon, are definitely below the standard of the best builders here, but I think are satisfactory for me. There are still some odd gouges, dents, and humps in a few places, but I think these will fade with sanding, painting, and the overall completion of the model. They show up well in the harsh light and shadows of close-up photography, but won't be as obvious in the general display conditions of the finished model. I think.


Bow view, with the sheer strake now set lower. I gave the planks a quick, rough sanding but there's more work to be done.



Side view. I think I've gotten the hang of edge-bending planks around the garboard strake. It's too bad this part will be painted, while the upper bow will be stained, because things look better down here.



Bottom view. Not sure if it shows, but I've been using a tick strip to lay out the course of the remaining planks.



Edge-bending planks. It's taken some practice to get this right, especially without denting the soft planks too badly. I used the edge of my cutting map, as the rough surface gives the clamps more purchase. I've learned to turn any such plank upside down, so any clamp marks are on the inside where they won't be as visible. post-17244-0-44230500-1457821180_thumb.jpg


Does anyone see further faults or problems, other than those I've already pointed out (a few humps and nicks in the planks, for example)?


I'm looking forward to filling this in, now that I'm finally understanding more about how to do it. I wanted this kit to teach me more, and it sure is!

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Please take a look at your garboard strake.  It should extend further forward.  Look at the run of the second plank.  Because the garboard plank is too short, the second plank had to curve excessively to meet it.  Make a template to see what the third row plank would have to look like.  The amount of edge bending required would be impossible.  And each subsequent row would be worse.  This a problem a lot of the builders of this kit have had with the result that they ended up starting over.  I would suggest looking at some of the finished builds to see how far forward they extended the garboard.  

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Are you sure? Both my garboard strakes end 3/16" beyond the forward end of the keel's scarph joint (I just remeasured them), which is as near to Chuck's layout as my eye can judge. The instructions say it should start "just forward of the scarph...don't start it too far forward". From other logs, I didn't think it should go much farther than that or the rest of the planks would be too squeezed as they ran in to the stem; the instructions give the same warning. I also tried to taper the garboard at least as much as I saw in other logs, I think it's more than Chuck's, to allow for a smoother run. Can you clarify what you're seeing in the photo that gives you concern?


At this point I've done all but the last few planks. One thing I didn't do quite right is keep the ends of the next few planks symmetrical; if you view the boat head on, they don't meet up in the same place across the stem. I didn't notice this until I was past the point of being willing to rip them all out, but I adjusted the next few planks to compensate back to even, and the area where they don't match will be covered by paint.


Looking back at my last photo, you may be seeing a combination of the 2nd planks not quite matching up, and camera angle foreshortening the port one. But I'd be happy to hear more, to understand if I'm missing something.

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It might just be the camera angle but the second strake looks like it is side bent severely.  Like I suggested, make up a template for the third run of planking and make sure your materials will bend as required.  And, yes, you should make them symmetric because it will end up being more work for you down the line. The best tutorial for this build is Bob Filipowski's.  I call it a tutorial because it is much more than simply a build log.  If you follow his instructions you cannot go wrong.

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I'm well past the stage shown in the last photo, only the final plank to go, so when I get a chance to process photos we can all judge how it turned out. To my eye, the run of my planks looks pretty similar to many other builds I've been studying, (other than some asymmetry in plank width that I put down to the amateur learning process) but we'll see what you all think when I get the photos up.


I've certainly learned quite a bit about how I'd proceed the next time, which is half the point of building models in the first place! At least for me.

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Here's the completed hull, for comment and critique. The flaws I see include some divots (resulting from clamping wet & soft wood while bending), and some plank edges that don't quite line up due to my less-than-perfect bending. What do you see?


After a first sanding, it's reasonably smooth and seems like the faults will fade with painting and finishing. I think the port side is better than the starboard side; the strakes are more evenly spaced. I'd like to do a better job on my next planking task, but feel that this is acceptable as a learning experience.


Also, after being so careful not to break the stem throughout the planking, I snapped it off while sanding the hull. Figures. post-17244-0-64326900-1458775752_thumb.jpgpost-17244-0-08032800-1458775755_thumb.jpgpost-17244-0-58145200-1458775757_thumb.jpgpost-17244-0-49226500-1458775761_thumb.jpg



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Your plank run actually looks good.  There does appear to be some unevenness in the finish that I think can easily be smoothed out by more sanding.  Ideally the hull should be smooth to the touch as you're holding it.  Your planking material is the 1/32" (.031") thick strip, which has some extra meat to it as far as how much you can sand off in order to get a smooth finish.  The planks included in my kit were .020" thick (MS had substituted lower quality planking material than what the kit was designed for), and still had enough material for a good sanding.  See the plank ends in this photo to see how thin my planks were:





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I'm definitely afraid of sanding right through a plank, especially at one of the less-good joints where the planks are already slightly angled to one another, but I suspect you're right that I can go farther. I guess holding it up to the light could help judge plank thickness.

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Hey, Toni, me too! I appreciate your taking the time to provide feedback, it definitely made me go measure and check what I'd been doing.


I've been giving some thought to the final appearance of the model, as it's about to affect how I proceed. There are two changes I'd like to make: to add sails, and to use a different color scheme. I'm just not a fan, personally, of the ornate friezes and don't think they'd look right on a model displayed in my very wood-heavy, non-ornate house. I like very laid-back models and the kit version is just too "loud" (not a criticism of Chuck or the kit, just a personal quirk). So I'm considering alternative approaches.


I did some image research on other styles of longboats, and like the color scheme of the longboats from HMS Victory and similar approaches, like these:






I particularly like the idea of using a black stripe to replace the friezes, as an understated way of highlighting that upper strake. What I'm considering doing, is staining the hull and seeing how it comes out. If it looks good, I'll leave it at least partly as wood, otherwise I'll go all-white. So it could be one of these approaches:


1) All-wood, different stain on cap rail & molding strip

2) All-wood, black upper strake, different stain on cap rail & molding strip

3) White under water, wood above, black upper strake

4) All white, black upper strake, wood highlights (like second link above)


For any of these, there's also the question of whether the red caprail and highlights still makes sense, or whether to stick with the white/black/wood scheme shown in all the photos linked above.


Any thoughts? Should I put together some diagrams?


I need to decide this, as it will affect the way I move forward on the cap rail and other hull finishing. Thanks for any input.

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So I mocked up examples of four possible paint schemes, partly to get Mrs. Cathead's input since she'll have to look at the finished version, and partly to see if any of you had input.




A. is essentially the kit plan, with a black stripe replacing the friezes.

B. is the "Victory yawl" pattern I've found various photos of, using a black stripe and stained-wood cap rail and moulding strip.

C. is an all-wood version using either a black or white stripe replacing the friezes

D. is A but with stained wood replacing red on the cap rail.


There are a few alternate rudder possibilities as well.


I know which one I favor personally, but are there reasons for or against any of these, whether authenticity, feasibility, or other?


Finally, I've never done treenails before. Is it worth doing them in areas that would be painted (like below the waterline)? Would they show through the paint on the real thing?

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I chose the all-white hull. It was Mrs Cathead's first choice and my second, and it does give me a very unique model. As this is different than most approaches to this kit, I decided to document my work more thoroughly. Here's a step-by-step tour of the week's work:



I hollowed out the hull using a motor tool. This was nerve-wracking at times, but I avoided any slips. I finished the inside with a rounded sanding tool I made: a short length of dowel, with a screw inserted for a handle to make a T-shape, and sandpaper attached to the dowel with double-sided tape. I adapted this approach from another build log, but am ashamed to say I can't remember which.


I also decided to make the cap rail a single piece, rather than two. So I held the hull against a sheet of 1/32" wood and traced the outer hull, then traced a parallel edge in both directions. After cutting it out, I ended up with the fat piece you see, with the center line for orienting it properly.





Here I departed from the kit instructions, which say to glue the cap rail in place before finish-sanding it. I did not do this, as my paint scheme involves using white and black paint, and two shades of stain, in very close proximity to one another. So I made a point of finishing and coloring the cap rail and moulding strip before attaching them. In the photos above, I'm carefully holding the cap rail in place while sanding it to shape. A lightweight rubber band near the stern helped with this.




I wanted the hull white, but not with a thick coat of paint that would obscure the planking. So after one more round of finish-sanding, I applied a thin coat of white primer, using a cotton swab, which I feel gives more even coverage than a brush. When this dried, I sanded it with very fine paper, then added another thin layer of primer. In the photo above, the starboard (lower) side has only the first layer, while the port (upper) side has both. I think you can see that the first layer still showed some wood color through, while the second coat gave it a true white color while still preserving the run of planking. I like how this came out; my less-than-perfect planking job was also a benefit here, giving just a little extra texture to show through the paint.




With the outer hull painted, I stained the inner hull with a diluted oak (all paints/stains used are Model Shipways brand), and the cap rail with a diluted cherry. I intentionally kept the inner stain slightly ragged, as I think it adds a more realistic level of texture to the hull's appearance. In a close-up photo it looks spotty, but in person it provides some visual texture that I find preferable in a lot of my models (I think the eye sometimes perceives perfection as false). I sanded the cap rail more than is shown here, removing most of the stain, before re-staining it and lightly sanding again. This gave the final surface a more complex appearance than solid color (note: I did the second staining of the upper surface after gluing it on, as described below).




I then painted the sheer strake black, and stained the inner, upper two planks and the transom with diluted cherry. In retrospect, I wish I'd thought to NOT prime and paint the sheer strake, as the black over white made it too smooth and shiny; I'd have liked the black to soak into the wood more. But the final result is ok, as the cherry strips on either side help obscure that effect. I did the black freehand, without mask, following the plank's edge. I knew that the moulding strip would cover up any slight wavers on my part. This stage also shows why I left the cap rail off; it was much easier to do both of these jobs without it.




I glued on the cap rail, did any final touch-up sanding of the top and sides, then re-stained it with more diluted cherry. I pre-bent the 1/32 square moulding strips by soaking them and clamping them to the hull (I did this before attaching the cap rail), then stained and sanded them. At this point they were easy to glue on, with some careful adjustment to try to get a smooth run parallel to the cap rail.


In the next post I'll share photos of the final effect; otherwise I'll go over the image limit for a single post.

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. The best tutorial for this build is Bob Filipowski's.  I call it a tutorial because it is much more than simply a build log.  If you follow his instructions you cannot go wrong.


Is his build log still available on this forum?  I tried searching but have limited skills in this area and would appreciate a link.  Thanks!

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I've made progress on the hull's interior, adding the thwart risers and the floors. The main floorboards were straightforward, though I departed from the instructions by sanding a taper into the outer boards' edges to help them form a nice parallel curve at bow and stern. I forgot to take a photo of this before covering them with the bow and stern platforms, though. It's nothing new from regular planking, though.


In order to get these platforms right, I made patterns from thin cardboard, using multiple attempts to get the shape right. I started with the shape shown in the plans, and worked to adapt it to the actual shape of my hull, which apparently was subtly different. I particularly had trouble with the bow platform, I just couldn't seem to get the curve I wanted.




I tried two different ways of transferring these patterns to wood. For the stern, I covered the pattern in double-sided tape, then laid planking onto that (top side down) and laid thin cross-supports underneath. The instructions just say to glue the planks together at the edges, but the real thing would obviously have had supports underneath, so I didn't mind doing this. Then I peeled off the tape and pattern and sanded the platform to fit.


For the bow, I pre-made a square of edge-glued planks, then traced the pattern onto it and cut it out. This seemed flimsy, so I again added cross-supports underneath. They can't be seen in either case, but made me feel better about handling the piece. Again, I really had trouble getting this platform right; I discarded two attempts in wood before settling on my third as good enough. I was having a really hard time getting the perfect shape and notches of the pattern transferred to wood strips, which were too thin at the edges to hold the shape well. Not sure what I was doing wrong, but I settled for the approach seen below, which approximates the idea and will be partially hidden beneath the forward thwarts.




I also departed from the instructions when installing the thwart risers, by attaching them before installing the platforms. I felt it was important for the platforms to be at a proper spacing from the risers, and wasn't sure that would happen if I did the platforms first. I edge-bent the risers as suggested, tapered them a bit, and they went in just fine. I clamped some scrap wood below the cap rail as spacers to keep the risers parallel, and that worked great.


Then I did some final shaping on the platforms to help them match the risers, and glued them in. Next, I'll be working on the locker at the stern.

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