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Liberty Ship SS Stephen Hopkins by schooner - BlueJacket - 1/192 scale

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Daddyrabit,

 Given your uncle's connection with the Libs you might be interested in looking at the website for the former WWII USN Armed Guard members

at:  http://www.armed-guard.com. 

 

Although I settled on the SS Stephen Hopkins for my build my second choice was the SS Henry Bacon for her heroics against JU-88's on the Murmansk run, you can google the name, the Wikipedia article is pretty good.

Tim

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Deckhouse detailing

 

Before heading off on a week and a half vacation there’s a little time for a little detailing.

 

The gun tubs are made out of styrene and the plastic armor belt added:

 

post-484-0-62416400-1470491506_thumb.jpg

 

The deckhouse front facing piece on the kit provides cut-outs where the sidelights go and the plans show the box in which the lights sit but there is no material or mention of it in the instructions so I think it just fell thru the cracks. Here’s what they looked like on the ship:

 

post-484-0-18815400-1470491530.jpg

 

Here’s the start of the modification, the box on the starboard side has had its height increased and it’s depth decreased, the port side is the original:

 

post-484-0-40760500-1470491562_thumb.jpg

 

 Here’s one side finished, overhangs have been added to the bridge wing deck to cover the outboard ends of stiffener pieces I will add to the underside next:

 

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Next steps in detailing will be to add the vertical braces between the decks in order to stiffen the currently floppy plastic bridge wings and set their angle and spacing, some stuff on the wings like voice tubes and junction boxes, then move up to the top deck and add the gun tubs and flag bag.

Edited by schooner

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Tim,

 

Just jumped in, quite a history with the liberty's. They had a fleet mothballed in the Tensaw River in the Mobile Delta just north of Mobile Bay. It was referred to as the Ghost Fleet (it looked like it moored side by side on a foggy morning). At one point we had security on them until they scrapped them. You wouldn't believe the amount of people that tried to pillage ships lights, engine room telegraphs binnacle even ships dishes.

 

We guarded it well until they were made into artificial fishing reefs. The politicians ended up with all the nautical items mentioned, nothing was salvaged for a museum.

 

Looking forward to see your build progress.

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Welcome aboard John.

 I had a similar experience with a mothballed destroyer when I was a kid in the early 70's . My friend's family ran a tugboat company and was hired to tow it to the scrappers. We were able to spend most of a day on her during the tow. EVERYTHING you can imagine was carefully packed away onboard including a full machine shop with tools, wardroom china (no silver though), damage control gear, linens, etc. Just about everything needed to get her in service except beans, bullets and black oil.

Tim

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Wow, I hope all that machine shop and it's tools were not scrapped, too. But probably they were. 

I've heard stories about all the equipment that was tossed overboard after WW2 was over. Kinda gives you an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, doesn't it?

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Deckhouse detailing

 

It’s been fairly slow going adding detailing along the upper deck edges and stiffeners under the upper deck projections as well as completing the sidelight boxes and adding the forward gun tubs. 

I’d planned on adding some details to the bridge wings but after looking at photos of all 3 surviving Libertys I realized that compared to Navy ships they had virtually nothing in the way of rudder angle indicators, pelorus’, sound-powered phone jacks, etc.

 

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After priming the main deckhouse it can be set aside for awhile and I’ll move on to the after deckhouse and the crane houses.

 
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Edited by schooner

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Aft Deckhouse

 

The aft deckhouse went together just like each layer of the main house; 3 wood lifts topped by a laser cut plastic deck, and the sides covered with thin ply.

 

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The deck edge coamings and underside stiffening girders are scratch. One item that will be different from the plans is the large gun tub. Rather than have a solid waist-high shield I’ll install a single strand lifeline, like you can see in the upper background of the photo below, the early Libertys seemed to have that style. Not sure what I will use for the lifeline stanchions yet but they are quite a ways down the road anyway.

 

post-484-0-64916700-1472824224.jpg

 

 

Next up will be the 3 crane houses.

Edited by schooner

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Mast Houses

 

The mast houses are made up of 2 stacked laser cut pieces with the holes for the masts and ventilators pre-drilled.

 

Given the rough faces from the laser cutting and the need to eliminate the seam between the pieces I thought that sanding them smooth would be tedious and might result in rounded corners so I decided to face them with sheet styrene. Doing so gave a nice smooth “steel” finish, sharp corners and a slight coaming along the deck edge.

 

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The details are a combination of kit items, scratch, and after market. Between them they are the anchor point for 15 masts, booms and cranes so there will be a lot of rigging around them.

 

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Next will be the start of adding the 160+ bulwark braces (maybe not tedious but certainly repetitive).

Edited by schooner

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Thanks for the kind words everyone.

 

Bob, I used a round file and sandpaper on the exterior of the vents. For the inside I wrapped some flexible sandpaper around the non-working end of a paintbrush and used that to smooth out the inside. Finally I drilled an opening down into the shaft with a small bit and then used a larger bit, twisted with just my fingers, to enlarge it (the Brittania metal is pretty soft).

Edited by schooner

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There seems to have been an unusual gun tub surround on those ships. Can't call them splinter shields because the solid part was only about 2 feet high and a rail above it at about 3 1/2'-4' above the gun tub deck. Suspect the stanchions you have in the photo are for that top rail structure,  probably to be reinforced by the lower solid surround. Need that solid surround to keep things, 'like empty brass', in the gun tub that would fall out, without it.

jud

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Jud,

 

 You are right that  things were a little "unusual" regarding gun tubs on those ships.

Many of them had elaborate "rails" on top of the tubs that varied in height depending on the azimuth that served as crude, but effective, firing cutouts, i.e. they kept the guns from firing into the  masts, superstructure, etc.

 

I'm comfortable in showing the main 5" gun platform on the Hopkins without a splinter shield because I've come across many photos showing the early Libertys' with just stanchions around it (all the smaller guns had solid splinter shields). Later Libertys' (basically 1943 on) all had conventional splinter shields around the main gun. Here's a photo of the Liberty ship that was launched next in line after the Hopkins at the same yard (the SS Samuel Huntington), she clearly has just stanchions around the aft gun:

 

post-484-0-49940600-1473810161_thumb.jpg

 

I suspect that trying to reclaim spent brass was not a priority during wartime like it was during my time in the peacetime Navy when every shell casing had to be policed up and sent back as retrograde. They were probably more interested in allowing the maximum depression of the gun barrel against close in subs/periscopes. Another, and more likely reason is that the 4" guns that the early Libertys' had sat much lower to the deck than the later 5/25's, so low that a splinter shield may not have been practical. If you google the old 4-stacker DD's you will see the 4" guns I'm talking about. Then again, at this remove, who knows what their rationale was.

 

Thanks for your feedback, I've learned more from folks on this site than from any other source.

Edited by schooner

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Bulwark Braces

 

The kit provides 160 nice laser cut braces, complete with the cutout on the outboard lower corner for draining the pockets (I’m not sure if they are called Limber Holes like they are in the bilges).

 

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Since the bulwarks near the bow are higher than the rest I scratched the braces there from strip plastic to ensure they reached closer to the top of the bulwark.

 

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After priming they both look about the same which is what I was after.

 

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Next will be fitting cap rails to the top of the bulwarks.

 

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Caprail Details

 

During my visit to the SS John Brown I was struck by the large number of eyes and cleats along the cap rail of the bulwarks, mainly in the vicinity of the hatches. I used a diagram of the main deck proved to visitors to mark their number and locations. Later, while doing research on the cargo rigging I discovered there was a need for so many so that wherever the cargo booms were positioned there would be a securing point for the boom vangs reasonably perpendicular to the boom in order to exert maximum control. You can see a couple of them here: 

 

post-484-0-37853300-1474815673_thumb.jpg

 

The eyes were easy to make: just place a nail of the right diameter at the desired distance from the edge of a board, bend the wire around it and clip it at the board edge. I was able to make about 15-20/minute. The cleats were more time consuming. The wire was too small to solder easily so I just cut a slot in the end of some plastic rod and glued the wire in place. Unlike the eyes, they won’t be under any tension when I rig the model so I’m comfortable just going with glue.

 

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Between the bulwark stiffeners, eyes and cleats that makes for over 300 small pieces just along the bulwarks so this is a good time and place to take a break for about 6 weeks while we go on an extended road trip. When I return I can get back to work with larger, less repetitive pieces.

Edited by schooner

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Really nice job you are doing here. Its great you have the luxury of visiting the prototype. I built Bluejackets Victory ship in the military configuration and had a tough time documenting the details. I'm happy with the results but could have done better.   Bill in Idaho

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Thanks Bill.

It has been a real help having a Liberty nearby, even though there are a lot of pix on the web the real thing helps. I've been thinking about BJ's T-2 Tanker but  close-up, detailed online photos are pretty rare so I'm not sure I could do it justice.

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I like the ships from that era,they all have a nice traditional shipshape look to them. I spent 9 months on the USS Intrepid,Aircraft carrier and mustered out of the Navy after another year on the USS Yosemite AD-19,destroyer tender. Basically a floating machine shop. Something about haze gray.  Bill

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Hi Tim,

 

I noticed in your post on my Arleigh-Burke build that you had built several Bluejacket kits, and I finally got around to looking at your build logs. Now I'm sorry I waited so long! I got so many great tips:

  • Bondo glazing putty
  • Krylon textured shimmer paint
  • The Glue Looper
  • PE bending tool

I'll be following this liberty ship build closely to see what else I can learn.

 

One question - have you found any spray paint that matches the Model Master haze gray sold for the Bluejacket kits, or are you using an airbrush now?

 

Rod

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Hi Rod,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but we are on  a looong road trip (currently in Oregon) and I finally remembered my password for this site.

 

As far as spray paint to match the haze grey I've had good luck with spray primer, usually from an auto parts store but some times from big box hardware stores. I can't remember a particular brand (they tend to change frequently) but the good news is that the stuff is cheap compared to hobby paint. I recommend you paint a small  piece of cardboard with your haze grey, mask off 2 or 3 areas of it and then try a brand by spraying it on the cardboard. If it is not a good match spend another 2 or 3 bucks on a different brand. I've never had to make more than 2 tries.

 

Keep up the good work on your Burke - she is coming along great!

Tim

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Forward Gun Tub

 

After a great trip out West it’s time to get back to work.

 

The next item on the to-do list is the forward gun tub. This marks the first departure from the kit in that the kit provides a nicely cast 3/50” AA gun which was the standard gun for probably 95+% of the Liberty’s but since the Hopkins was one of the earliest of the line the “standard” Liberty weapons were not available so she was fitted out with whatever could be scrounged up.

 

She ended up with a pretty peculiar choice of dedicated AA guns - they were obtained from the Army and consisted of 2 37mm guns. The original design of the gun was as an anti-tank weapon:

 

post-484-0-46203800-1480110258_thumb.jpg

 

It proved to be notoriously ineffective against German armor and was withdrawn from AT service in 1943.

 

Someone thought it would be a good idea to make an AA version of the gun that could be mounted on a trailer:

 

post-484-0-95793500-1480110283.jpg

 

Although the gun had good range (8000 yds) and rate of fire (90 rpm) it had a huge drawback in that it did not fire airburst or tracer ammunition. This made it almost impossible for the gunners to tell if they were getting close to hitting an aircraft, and more importantly, there was nothing to deter or distract a pilot on his attack run.

 

Nevertheless, that was all that was available and 2 of them were loaded on the Hopkins and fitted to jury-rig mountings (during a storm in the Indian Ocean both mounts broke loose.) As it ends up, they proved to be deadly when used against a ship at close range, as the Steir found out.

 

Before I could determine the shape and size of an appropriate gun tub I had to scratch build the guns. There is not a lot about them readily available on the Internet but after a lot of digging I found a 1944 Tech Manual for them. Why someone would take the time to scan and post almost 300 pages of an old maintenance manual is beyond me, but then again whoever it was probably thinks building ship models is strange.

 

After getting the dimensions of the guns I made the major parts out of brass and plastic: 

 

post-484-0-11675200-1480110304_thumb.jpg

 

After adding more details and painting (I figured they would have been left in their Army Olive Drab paint scheme) they are ready to go:

 

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Edited by schooner

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Forward Gun Tub (cont)

 

The kit provides laser cut pieces to form the supporting tower for the gun tub. The pieces are nicely formed but for anyone building this kit you should check the height of the central piece - mine was about 4mm too short. It was an easy fix to add a piece to the bottom.  The tub itself had to be scratched to accommodate twin vice one gun. I kept the length the same as the original and just adjusted the width. Most of underside support braces are scratch.

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After it is mounted on the model there will be additional pieces such as ladders and stanchions.

 

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Edited by schooner

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Hatch Covers

 

Not much progress on the model itself lately. I've been building and finishing the display board and running it out to a plastic company who made the display case for me. I needed the display board done this early because right after I paint the hull I'll mount it on the board so I don't have to handle it anymore.

 

The kit provides 2 laser cut pieces to form each hatch coaming and cover, the covers are etched to show the individual hatch covers - you can find them as tables in the cocktail lounge of every cheesy seafood place with a name like “The Rusty Scupper.”

 

I built up 3 of them for the 3 hatches that I will leave closed/covered.

 

post-484-0-77437200-1480782106_thumb.jpg

 

For the 2 hatches that will be (hopefully) either full or partially open I had to scratch the coamings. After several attempts I got 2 that are square and the right dimensions. I’ll add details like hatch beams, etc, later on.

 

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Next up will be the final sub assemblies and then it will be time to paint the hull.

Edited by schooner

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