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USS Constitution by AndyMech - FINISHED - Revell - PLASTIC - 1:96

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Hello again.  I started this log back on November 1, 2011, and I think I've managed to salvage most of it.  I have all the photos, and will re-build the log as best I can.


Having been through catastrophic data losses before (professionally), I know the feeling the moderators must have and completely sympathize.  Re-boots and recovery are always difficult, but the "can-do" attitude of everyone here and the overwhelming friendly atmosphere obviously hasn't been lost.  For that, I am thankful.


Here's the last photo I took (some progress made since then, but not photographed).  I will start the log from the beginning when I have more time.




Edited by AndyMech
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Hi andymech,


Thanks for your offer to repost the build log. I had been following it religiously since starting the Constitution in December. You logged so many hints that have been so helpful to a novice. Looking foward to seeing the log reconstituted.



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I was able to save most of my log through Google Cache and will not re-create it entirely, but cut-and-paste and re-post photos.  It may take a while, but I should have everything I need.



I'd like start a detailed build log for the very popular USS Constitution 1:96 by Revell.

First, a little background: I built my first plastic model, The Flying Dutchman, after giving it to my daughter. I don't know who made it - can't find the box anymore and web searches have come up empty. Anyway, I found it under her bed months later - it was obvious she wasn't going to do it. I bought some enamel Testors paint, some plastic cement and built it myself. It was a very enjoyable experience - not a difficult model and I did a really bad job painting it (I just looked at again yesterday - horrid!), but fun.

Next, I built a balsa wood airplane, just to see if I liked that. It was fun, but frustrating somewhat and it didn't really jazz me as much as the ship did. Perhaps it's because the ships are much more detailed and complicated than the airplanes.

After the plane, I built the Academy 1:250 Roman Warship. On this one, I was much more careful and detailed, especially with the painting. I still used enamels, and glossy ones at that, but at least I didn't rush it, and I got a good set of decent brushes. Not knowing any better, I typically glued over the paint, which caused some of the paint to melt, although I've not seen any stability issues.

After the Roman Warship, I got the bug for doing a ship-in-a-bottle. A little shopping research later, I found the Amati Hannah 1:350 ship-in-a-bottle kit. This one was more expensive than the others, so I wanted to be extra careful to not screw it up.

I found an incredible build log on the now-defunct DryDockModels site, and managed to save all 7 pages of the log before the site went away. (It was
going up and down sporadically, so I quick saved it one day when it was up - I never was able to get back to it later, so I got lucky.)
The build log was like a second set of instructions to me, and that's what I'd like to do for this log on the USS Constitution. It only took 8 weeks or so to build the Hannah, and it turned out pretty good. I liked the small scale and the attention to detail. I was painting with sewing needles and did the whole project looking through a magnifier.

After the Hannah, I thought about my next project -- I knew I wanted it to be a ship, but should I go wood or plastic? I seriously
thought about wood -- researched a ton on this site, thought about the Syren because of the detailed instructions or the Sultana as it's been recommended as a good beginner wood model. In fact, I read an extremely good, detailed build log on the Sultana here at Model Ship World, and it scared me off. I'm not confident in my carpentry or sanding skills and the amount of hull shaping seemed very difficult. I still want to do a wood model eventually and learn the planking techniques.

So when I read of the Revell 1:96 Constitution, it clicked for me. It's a large, detailed model with complex rigging, which I've not done before.

I bought the model mid-September (2011), and as luck would have it, travelled to Boston for work a week later. Unfortunately, there was no
time to visit it at the Boston docks, but I got a glimpse as plane landed.

I hope to document, in this log, virtually every step. I'm an engineer by profession (software), and am interested in documenting the entire process. I
typically only work on weekends, as my weekdays are a bit too busy -- some weekdays I can do small steps like masking or minor prep, but the bulk of the
work is on Saturday/Sunday. I'm in no rush, as I prefer this time to do my best and not hurry through steps.

If anyone is reading, please don't hesitate to give advice or let me know if I could improve on anything. I want to learn and this community seems like a great place to do that.


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September 25. 2011


I purchased the kit on September 15 – mispriced at HobbyTown for $65. I also bought a bunch of paint and supplies.


I washed all the plastic in soapy water, careful not to lose any pieces down the drain.



I removed the 32 gun port doors from the sprue and taped them to the hull in position so I can prime/paint them. I
primed the hull (with gun port doors) and the 6 deck pieces with Brite Touch gray automotive primer. I got some splatter on the deck pieces, due to my poor spray painting skills, but it should cover up ok. I plan on painting a initial coat of black on the deck, per the instructions.

I masked off the white gun stripe with Tamiya masking tape, and applied 4 coats of flat white spray paint. Coverage was pretty poor and I got impatient and put a quite thick 4th coat on.




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October 5 and 6

The white paint stripe on the hull had dried, so I removed the masking tape. I found a fair bit of white paint had seeped under the tape, probably due to my over enthusiastic spraying. Based on a tip I read here, I plan on sealing future tape with clear acrylic.

I scraped away the excess white paint, removed the gun port doors (to set aside) and masked off the white stripe area and the waterline as prep for the black coat.






I painted the yellow masking tape with clear acrylic to seal the tape and also masked off the hatches in the deck pieces – all of these pieces will be spray painted black, and I wanted to do it all at once (spray painting is messy and smelly)

As an aside, after masking the hull sections, I would cut some clear plastic sheeting and tape that to the hull to protect the rest of it from the spray. Worked pretty good, but I still get some seepage.

As this was drying, I cut and trimmed all 66 cannon pieces and glued them together to create 33 cannons. I also painted each of the remaining 30 gun carriages with 2 coats of red paint.

For the gun port doors, I scraped the paint away from the tabs (where they will eventually be glued) and painted an additional 2 coats of flat white paint on them by brush. I also painted their back with 2 coats of white paint.





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October 12

Copper time! Earlier, I removed the masking tape from the black paint, and then masked off the hull for the copper on the waterline. Again, I used clear acrylic to seal the masking tape and then covered the rest in plastic. I sprayed the masked hull with Testors copper spray.

Issues: As light as I tried to spray the hull, the paint went on really thick and started to run. I let it run for while thinking it might drip off the hull and be ok, but then I got nervous and grabbed some tissue and wiped off the excess. Surprisingly, this worked ok – the copper paint seemed to adhere very well to the primed hull with no streaking. On the second hull half, I tried to go even lighter with the paint, but the same thing happened. I wiped it off again, and it looked ok.

The other issue was the very bottom of the keel didn’t get enough paint due to my angle of spraying. Rather than try to touch up with the spray paint and potentially cause more excess, I plan on just brush painting that later (after gluing the hull together).



I removed the masking tape from the hull after the copper had a few days to dry. The water line came out nice and precise, but the plastic sheeting protecting the rest of the hull wasn’t quite as sealed and there was leakage. Nothing that can’t be scraped off and touched up.





I also painted the carriage wheels brown and the little hubs on the wheels black. I scraped the paint off the carriages where the cannon tabs will be glued.



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I painted all 32 cannons “gun metal” black and touched up the hull painting. Then I glued the 32 cannons to their carriages.

I also scraped the paint from the hull where the gun port doors will be painted.





I cut out the polyflex pieces for the hull windows and glued them into place with white Elmer’s glue (as it should dry clear). I also painted the interior of the bulkheads green (2 coats).




When all paint and glue was dry, I glued the two hull halves together.


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Here's where I can't reconstruct the log very well.  I painted the stand sign, did the touch up and fixed the copper painting on the hull.







Did more paint touch up on the hull and painted the bow ornamentation.







Hull complete!



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I painted and attached the rudder and did some other touch up on the rear gallery windows.






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Next up was the gun deck painting.  I was going for a wood deck look without actually planking the deck.


Overall, I remember the steps as:


- Deck were spray painted black (seen previously)

- I applied a base coat of "wood" color

- Using the back of a #11 knife, I scored each plank line

- I mixed a little darker and lighter "wood" color paint by adding a few drops of black and white, then individually painted each plank a random color.  

- Probably had to re-score the plank lines again.

- Final step was to apply either a wash or drybrush black onto the deck for some detail and depth.


I tried both wash and dry brush and was happier with the dry brush effect.





Dry brush:







I am also creating my own eyebolts out of wire to replace the plastic ones:



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The last couple of days were spent painting the rear gallery:
- First Iapplied a coat of the Brite Touch gray primer
- Next, I painted the black background (black acrylic)
- Painted the windows white, which took several coats (white acrylic)
- The red trim was next, followed by the flesh, blue and green portions
- Finally, did the gold trim yesterday, followed by 2 hours of touch up

I use a very small brush (size 0) and very little paint, so it doesn't seep. For touch-up, I first used a sewing needle to remove the excess paint. Sometimes you get lucky and only scrape away the excess - other times you need to re-apply the black base coat. A couple of iterations of paint and re-paint were required to get it completed. All this was done under a magnifier. 



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Instead of using polyflex for the windows on the rear gallery, I experimented with using diluted white Elmer's glue to form the windows.


I watered it down slightly and used a toothpick to spread it across the window frame from behind.

I think it turned out pretty well, but care must be taken to avoid air bubbles and the glue must be diluted just right -- too thin and it pops, too thick and it isn't very attractive.  I think I spent hours and hours on this, removing them, re-applying, etc.  Pretty happy with the end result, but much more time consuming than just using the clear plastic that came with the kit.  Your decision, of course.




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After some initial mistake, I painted the below-decks bulwarks white - I had added the decks, caught the mistake and removed them to paint.  Good thing too, it looks much better with white.





I installed the tiller and put in the gun decks onto the hull. I also glued the stand pieces to the keel. The stands required an awful lot of filing and sanding as they were too big and I tried my best to get the ship level. The tiller is threaded, as per the instructions, through the deck and eventually onto the main deck.

The gun decks are not glued - they have some play, but are held in place by plastic stays. I've read this is partly to help installing the masts. I'm going to let the stand and tiller dry overnight before continuing with the captain's cabin. 





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I also glued on the cannon door covers as the instructions indicated and added the ropes to hold them.

Doesn't sound like a lot, but it took time, especially with 32 cannon doors to rig. 


Using pencils to achieve a uniform door position. Pencils were almost the right size for the door openings - the cards are there to ensure they are up against the upper frame and won't move during gluing.




The pencils holding the doors - this is either a dry fit or after gluing.



The pencils were removed after about 3 hours drying time. The results were a pretty uniform set of doors at a good angle.



All the ropes installed on one side of the ship



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I painted the spare yards black and glued them (with CA) onto the deck and added the lashing line.

I also, over the course of 2 days got all 32 cannons glued in place on the gun deck and added the line per the Revell instructions. I used CA glue to attach the cannons, and for the rope, simply looped it around each cannon end and mount point and added enough CA to hold it. It was very tight, so I worked one cannon at a time -- if I had glued all 32 cannons and then attempted to rig them, it would have been very difficult to tie the line the mount points on the bulwarks.






Next work was done on the main deck.  Using the same technique as the gun deck, I painted, scored, repainted, etc.  Finished with a dry brush of black (instead of a wash) and the main deck was done.






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Next, got the main deck in place after finished off the gun deck furniture.







Using rubber bands and twine to get the hull squeezed together so the glue can dry.


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I took off the rubber bands and twine yesterday after letting it dry for over 24 hours. Good news: the sides, where the deck meets the waterways is generally nice and tight and I feel pretty good about that.

The bad news: there are some gaps between the deck pieces. The one I need some help/advice on is between the middle deck piece and the bow piece.

The fore to aft gap is actually quite small, the problem lies in a vertical shift -- the middle deck is higher at that seam than the fore part. I can physically push it down into place, but there is enough a small separation between them after I push it into place that gluing them together doesn't seem like it would work.

I set a heavy weight on it overnight, but I highly doubt it will shape the plastic after I remove it to hold it there. I thought about perhaps gluing a bracing piece of plastic on the underside and somehow clamping it in place while the glue dries, but I haven't had time to investigate whether I can fit anything in there and be able to both clamp and press on the deck so they line up at the same time.





The final gap can be seen in my previous photo - the gap widens between the middle piece and the aft piece. I could possibly fill with a putty I suppose, or maybe a paintable glue of some kind. It's pretty small - less than a millimeter, and I would prefer a solution that doesn't mess with the paint job if possible. 


The fix:

I took a piece of sprue, cylindrical, and applied a lot plastic cement to it and placed it underneath the joint that was mismatched. I then used a C-clamp and a ruler to clamp both the glued sprue and the decks into the aligned position. After a few hours, the glue was dried so I removed the clamps and success.



I also spent time today painting and installing the wheel. It took almost 2 hours to do the rope around the wheel, but it looks pretty good and wheel does turn the rudder. Not that I'm going to turn it for fear of breaking something.





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I managed to install the last of the bulwark eyebolts as well as the 6 cleats and two pinrails at the bow.

I've debated what colors to paint the pin rails and the cleats as well as the upcoming stairs and fiferails, etc. I went with "Wood" on the pin rail with a dark tan for the pins themselves and "Wood" again for the cleats.

I'm thinking of a "Rust" for the fiferails and stairs which is a darker brown with a little red in it.





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The next step was to install a bunch of eyebolts, the fiferail, pinrails around the mast and the boat cradles. Towards the stern, I installed the binnacles, the monkeyrail and the main fiferail. I also installed the three ladders.

I generally enjoy this part -- the pieces are fun to paint and installation is easy. I use mostly CA except for the boat cradles as the deck is heavily painted and I don't think these small plastic parts will bear any weight of rigging later. 


The boat cradles, all painted the "rust" color to add a little contrast to the Wood and Leather colors on the deck.



Fore fiferail and pinrails and crossrail. I glued them together in position, the removed for painting. You can also see the funnel.



The binnacles -- I painted the tops gold to try and mimic the brass tops I noticed in a photo.



Monkeyrail, main fiferail. I painted them "rust" and the pins a dark tan.


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This weekend was dedicated to cannon creation. I glued and painted the 6 bow cannons, the 16 stern cannons and the single bow chaser cannon. 




Typical cannon:



Bow chaser:




With the guns painted, I thought I would install one of the forward guns. The instructions say to "tie or seize" the gun to the eyebolts using the large diameter tan thread.

I did some reading on seizing, both in this forum and Frank Mastini's "Ship Modeling Simplified". I thought I would try the method of tieing a half-hitch, creating a loop, wrapping around the loop and finally threading it through and pulling both ends tight. I use a small drop of CA to hold the initial half-hitch.

It took about 1/2 hour to do one gun - two seizings. The first went ok, as the gun was not yet in the way. The second was tougher due to the gun and probably my waning patience.

Before I continue with the other 5 forward guns (and possibly the remaining 16 guns to the rear), I thought I would see if there were any tips, hints or just "more practice" comments. The second seizing (see photo below) didn't come out as smooth - I probably was unable to get it to lie flat, but still looks ok, I hope. 



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The last two days were spent cleaning up the cannon plastic seams and attempting to get them onto the deck. The seize knots are getting better, or at least I can tie them. I tried on Saturday, and gave up after
trying for an hour. I felt it better to not push it and wait till today (Sunday).

It went much better - I got the 6 forward cannons installed - only 16 more to go and and bow chaser. I'm not sure if that's just tied or seized. 





Finished the 8 stern cannons:




And, finally, ALL the cannons:




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I had a question (in the original log) about my paint and color choices.  For anyone who might care, here it is:



Copper: Testors Spray Enamel 1251 Copper Metallic
Matt White: Tamiya Color for plastics TS-27
Matt Black: Tamiya Color for plastics TS-6

I believe both the white and black are also enamel.

Model Master Acrylics:
4714 Insignia Red (gun carriages)
4768 Flat Black (stern)

4769 Flat White (sternl)
4709 Dark Tan (belaying pins)
4673 Wood (pin rails, cleats, probably yards and boat fittings) (I used an enamel Wood on the decks)
4674 Leather (deck framing)
4675 Rust (fiferail, stairs, monkeyrail)
4681 Gun Metal (cannons)
4736 Interior Green (bulwarks, stern highlights)
4622 White Primer (not using that anymore, doesn't seem to be needed)
4601 Skin Tone (tiny bit on the stern figure)

Master Enamels:
1735 Wood (deck base, and I added a little black or white enamel for the different shades of Wood)
1749 Flat Black (hull touch up, mixed with Wood)
1768 Flat White (hull touch up, mixed with Wood)

Testors Enamel (these are the small 1/4 oz bottles):
1144 Gold (hull detailing)
1111 Dark Blue (stern highlights on figure)
1140 Brown (captains cabin furniture)
1162 Flat Blue (captains cabin curtains, bench)

I think that's it. I'm pretty sure that will last the rest of the ship, with the possible exception of finding a dark green for one of the ship's boats. Based on a photo of the current Constitution, the hull of the port side boat is green, the others are white. But it seems a darker green than the bulwarks. We'll see when I get there. I have a Testors 1171 Beret Green enamel in my box from some previous project that might work. 

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The final gun was the bow chaser!


Bow chaser - how to tie?



I wanted a little slack in the lines for the bow chaser, so I stuck the cannon on small piece of Lego which allow me to seize it tight. Then the Lego was removed and the cannon settled into place. I didn't glue it to the deck as the lines will be more than enough to keep it in place. 







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Final pinrails:




Next up are the ship's boats -- I've assembled and painted them as well as the 34 oars that come with the kit. The instructions say to distribute the oars among the boats -- there are 2 jolly boats, 1 cutter (Captain's cutter?) and 4 boats which are lashed to the deck. Any ideas/suggestions on typical oar distribution? Also, would it look weird to just glue the oars in place or should I attempt to lash them to the boats? 








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I glued in the head timbers, applied a little touch up on the gold paint and finally glued in the two water pumps and eyebolt assemblies.




Next up: the catheads and then the railings.



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Next, there was a question about thread sizes:




3 black spools and 4 tan, but 3 sizes of each.

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Next step in the build is to install the cap rails and begin the hammock netting. Based on photos of the ship, I painted the cap rails black and glued them into place. 






The amidships rails were next and they were somewhat difficult. Based on photos, the stanchions were black and rail above them was "Wood" colored. I chose to paint them my "Leather" color for contrast.

The instructions also specify to thread them with tan thread, with two rows both inside and out. Photos of the real ship, however, shows hammock netting both above the cap rail and in the amidships section. After a recommendation to check out the local Hobby Lobby, I found some "Tulle" which has the same shape as the hammock netting and I was able to get an eighth yard for 18 cents. More than enough Tulle.

The very thin rail sections had a lot of plastic excess on them and I spent a lot of time with a very sharp knife trimming them. Luckily, there were no mishaps or breakage during this step, but it could easily have happened. Next, I glued together the two pieces that make up the amidships rail. I jigged this with legos to keep them the proper distance apart and used plastic cement on them, unpainted as I wanted a strong bond.

After letting them dry overnight, I painted them black and "Leather", cut and glued the Tulle to them with CA and then used CA again to attach the rails to the ship.

Personally, I think it turned out great. I plan to use this Tulle for the rest of the cap rail hammock netting as well. 






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Ok, it took 2 weeks, but I finally finished the cap rail stanchions and hammock netting. I deviated from the instructions here, as they called for wrapping a tan thread in two rows along the stanchions. Photos of the
ship clearly show a black hammock netting with a black rope at it's top holding it in place.

The stanchions themselves needed a lot of trimming - both the flash and the little tab that fits into cap rail slot which was too long. I wanted the stanchions to fit flush to the cap rail.

After all 58 stanchions were glued in (with plastic cement), I painted them flat black to match the cap rail. Then, I cut out 8 pieces of the Tulle fabric in thin strips the width and length that I needed. They were held in place by small clips as I glued them with CA on the outside of the stanchions.

Finally, I added a black rope to the top by tying to the end eyebolts and gluing with a small drop
of CA at the top of each stanchion. I used the medium size black thread that came with the kit. 








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Next step in the instructions is to glue 34 eyebolts to various positions along the hull. Previously I had made the decision to make my own from 26 gauge beading wire, so I spent the day making them. I thought I would document the process for anyone who's interested. 


I cut 34 lengths of wire approx 4cm or 1.5 inches long



I loop each wire around a pin vise bit, chosen to give a good sized, but not too large, "eye"



34 loops ready for twisting.



To twist, I secure the loop with needle nose pliers and use my fingers to twist each of the two ends equally



All twisted and ready for trimming



Trimmed up and ready for dry fit



Glued into the stern:





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