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Liberty Ship SS Stephen Hopkins by schooner - FINISHED - BlueJacket

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Deck Details


Although I have been spending a fair amount of time on the build lately there isn’t much to show for it since it has all been detail work with small strip plastic and wire. Anyway, the steam and fireman piping/shielding is all in, the fire stations installed (most are on the port side), and about 80 pad eyes are almost all in along the hatches and in the waterways. The pad eyes will be important when rigging the booms but since I'm not sure which ones I will be using at this point they are all pinned to the deck for additional strength.

The fireplugs and hose racks are from BlueJacket’s catalog, the fireplug hand wheels are from Northstar and the rest is scratch. I’ll probably fabricate the 50-cal machine guns next.




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.50 Cal Machine Guns


Once the Liberty production line got into full swing by late 1942 their light anti-aircraft weapon suite consisted of 6-8 of the excellent 20mm Oerlikon guns:


The kit provides very nice cast Oerlikons:


Like everything else weapon-related, the Stephen Hopkins was built too early in 1942 to get the good stuff, her light AA guns were water-cooled .50 cal machine guns from the USN which had plenty laying around since they were rapidly abandoning them in favor of the Oerlikons. When I saw the kit’s 20mm guns I thought it would be easy to convert them to .50 cals by thickening the barrel to represent the water jacket, replacing the cylindrical ammo magazine with the “tombstone” one which was unique to the .50 cals and changing the shoulder rests to the 50 cal grips that looked like bicycle handlebars. The only problem was that I was unable to find any photo evidence that shipboard .50 cals were ever mounted with a shield (unlike today where virtually every USN ship has multiple .50 cals with shields). All of the .50 cal mounts in early 1942 were variations of the “Tora Tora Tora” mounts that were on the battleships during the Pearl Harbor attack, they looked like this:




So I needed to scratch build them. I made the pedestals and “C” shaped mounts from strip and rod:


The details like the cooling water hoses, water tank, magazine, elevation crank were wire, wood and plastic, the gunsights are Northstar PE valve hand wheels:



And the finished product after painting ( I decided to paint the mounts Navy Gray since that is how they would have been shipped and, like any shipyard, they would not have been repainted if it wasn't spelled out in the contract):



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Nice work Tim. I personally think your .50s are better than the cast 20s anyway.


Not really related to your build but I can't help but wonder about your picture #3 where the poor fifty operator is working so close to the 5" 25 AA guns on a cruiser! Those guns on many occasions were noted for ripping off the fabric skin on the SOC float planes that were located much further away just from the gunblast if the planes were not launched before opening fire! One can only guess what it was like standing that close to the business end of  5" gun firing every few seconds! 

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Thanks Lou. That is an interesting photo of the 50 cal in action. Now that you point that out, that must have been a tough location to work. When researching photos I tend to focus on what I'm after (in this case .50-cal info) and miss some of the other interesting stuff in the same frame!

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I'm not sure if that is a "in action" photo or taken during training.  There are crew members just standing around and no one is in battle gear.  The one below looks staged also.

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They may have both been staged #3 almost certainly so as the torpedo tubes are also deployed on the deck below indicating that the ship is a cruiser. If it was a heavy cruiser then all of the torpedos were removed on US heavy cruisers in the early 30s, Much regretted by some crews in the early stages of WWII when coming up against Japanese cruisers that not only had torpedos but reloads for them as well. The three stacks also visible in the picture also indicate that the ship might be an earlier design possibly even a protected or armored cruiser or other pre Washington treaty light cruiser. The crew uniforms could also support this. If it is a 5" gun it appears to be a 5"/51cal open mount and that again would support an earlier design even though the outboard open deck location would support a later non-casement style of vessel. Hate  to bounce around so much but on closer examination it could be a 3"/50, (3-inch,_50_caliber_gun,_World_War_I.jpg

which would in some ways make more sense both in placement of the .50cal mount and the style of ship. The blast from a 3" would be considerably less than a 5". As an example the light cruiser Marblehead was armed with 3" guns, had triple torpedo tubes, and several water cooled .50s. The stacks are not quite right as her stacks were two stacks, space, and two stacks but everything else matches. 


MUCH more pertinent to your build is that in the same picture the .50 mount seems to have shoulder rests like on a 20mm rather than the handlebars like on yours.

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Well I have to categorize myself as an idiot again.


Picture #3 kept bothering me as what ship class/gun was being shown behind the 50 cal mount.


The one four stack WWI/WWII ship that had open mount guns mounted on the deck edge with triple torpedo tubes mounted a deck lower that I did not consider was the obvious one! The good old WWI four stack destroyer!

The large gun is a 4"/50cal and is located on a raised deck area amidships between stacks two and three. That makes the torpedo tubes look like they are located a deck lower but they are really located on the main deck. In addition the searchlight platform is a open framework, again matching the destroyer. The boat davits also are in the proper location.

 Clemson-class destroyer inboard and ouboard profiles 1920s.png

All was not lost though I also found these additional pictures of the watercooled 50:


Scroll down a little and there are a number of pictures including #3.


If you want I can delete all of my other meanderings from your build log Tim so it will not be as cluttered with all my drivel.

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Thanks for all the info Lou, especially for the 50 cal photos - I wish I had found those.

I suspected the #3 photo was on a 4-piper but the Royal Navy cap on the sailor threw me until I recalled the destroyers for bases deal in 1940 or 41. This photo must have been taken when the RN crew was taking one of the ships out for shakedown right after the transfer because the RN heavily modified those ships as soon as they could to better suit them as convoy escorts and I'm sure the 50 cals were craned off right after the 4 torpedo tubes mounts!

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No problem Tim 


The search was not only interesting but useful to me as well. Through this search I was able to locate the same kind of gun that I will need for my upcoming 1/350 scale Houston build. I doubt I have the skills to scratch build them the way you did yours.


If you had built in 1/144 scale you could have used these:

https://www.whiteensignmodels.com/p/WEM+1144+USN+50+Cal+Watercooled+MG+PE+14407/5134/#.XGb7pKJKi00 Sorry I was unable to locate anything in 1/200 or close.

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Jumbo Boom Blocks


One of the details I had to finish up before starting the rigging was the 30 and 50-ton “Jumbo” booms. Unlike the 5-ton booms which got their lifting power straight off of the winch, the booms used for lifting heavy loads like tanks and planes needed the extra lifting power provided by large pulleys, 5-sheave for 50-ton, and 4-sheave for the 30-ton. They were some big honkers - almost 6 feet high including the cargo hook:





Fortunately Bluejacket sells some 1/4 inch blocks that are exactly what I needed for shape, height and length:



The only problem is that they are triple blocks so I needed to modify them to get them right for this build. I started by sanding off the stropping on one side for the 4-holers and both sides for the 5-holers. Then I used my punch set to make sheave discs from sheet plastic of the right thickness:


After gluing on the discs I covered them with oversized sheet plastic:



The plastic was then trimmed and sanded to match the original shape. The 4-holers needed to have the lifting eye cut off and new ones added to the “new” centerline, all of them had new stropping to replace what was removed, and half of them had beckets added (the starting point for rigging a set of blocks):


After painting these should do the trick:


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I wish I knew about this earlier….


I’ve been spend the last week or so getting ready for the last big job on this build - rigging the cargo booms. I’ve been fabricating cargo hooks, drilling out and painting britannia blocks and doing what seizing I can off the model.


About 50% of the rigging will represent manila line which I will tie off with seizing wherever possible. The other half will be representing wire rope, both greased (slushed) and painted. I’ve been mulling over is how to tie-off the wire rope. Knots would look pretty bad and seizing, while better, is still not realistic since wire rope was not seized - the eyes are either secured with poured sockets or clamps. I didn’t think I could pull it off with just glue but then I saw something on Mahuna’s amazing build log for the skipjack Kathryn here on MSW, he used crimping tubes to secure some of his rigging. Crimping tubes are used in jewelry making and, lo and behold, my wife happened to have some on hand:


When I squeezed them with needle nose pliers they secured the eye in the line OK but they were inconsistent in how the lines led into them and were too flat and broad for my eye.



After poking around on that great repository of knowledge, YouTube, I found the trick is to use crimping pliers.


The pliers use a 2-step process, the first flattens the tube but also leave a crease down the center of it, in the second step the tube is moved to another spot on the pliers and the tube is folded over the crease leaving a nice, tight and consistent seizing that is realistic for wire rope:


These might be useful for anyone wanting to secure rigging that represents wire rope, radio antennas or even “rope” where there is not enough room to put on a seizing.

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electricity for cars use the same crimping method for sockets and plugs, but it will be slightly if not a lot to big. Used it on the reconstruction of a mini's loom, maybe it would do the job as well. Made some joins for multiple cables out of brass tubing that way

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Rigging Cargo Booms - Hatch Nr 1


Well it’s finally time to start rigging this pig. I’m going to start with Hatch Nr1, which since it will be shown secured for sea it will be the easiest.


The forestay for the foremast goes on first. I thought it would be some simple work with tweezers to attach the upper end but I ended up using needle nose pliers and tweezers from a lot of angles so I decided to attach the upper ends of all the shrouds and stays now while the area is free of other rigging so there is some spaghetti hanging from all the masts:


The 2 5-ton booms where rigged up next. Since the booms will be in the stowed position the blocks normally used on the vangs have been left off and the wire rope pendants are just lashed to the booms.


On my first post for this log I mentioned that one of the things that caught my attention about Liberty Ships was the use of large chains on the masts:



I came to learn that they are call “bull chains” and they are a clever solution to a problem. The topping lift on a boom is used to raise and lower the outer end of the boom and it also supports the boom and whatever load is is lifting so they are made of wire rope for strength. The topping lift is taken to power on one of the capstan heads on the boom’s winch. The problem comes in that you can’t wrap wire rope around a capstan because it won’t

“grip” it and you can’t have manila rope as part of the lift because it is too weak to support lifting a cargo load. They solved the problem by having the end of the wire topping lift attach to the top of a triangular plate, the bottom of the plate was connected to both a length of manila rope and a length of chain. The rope was wrapped around a capstan head and taken to power. When the topping lift was in the desired position, the chain next to it was shackled to the deck using whatever chain link was closest to the deck eye, the rope was then slacked off and the weight of the boom and load was now carried by the wire rope connected to the chain. By having a long length of chain they could position the boom anywhere from horizontal to vertical and still have a strong topping lift. Pretty neat. They could get away with this because these booms were fixed in position and were not swung or raised or lowered while in use (I’ll explain how that worked when I rig one of the “working” hatches).


Here’s the topping lift/bull chain in place:


And here is the completed hatch after some touch-up painting. The booms are shown stowed in the horizontal position. If there was over size cargo stowed on to of the hatch, like a tank, crated aircraft, PT Boat, etc then the booms would be stowed in the vertical position when at sea.  The 2 additional  fore stays where only rigged when the Jumbo Boom on the aft side of this mast was in use, it will be on this build hence the stays are rigged. Although they partially block the hatch opening it wasn't an issue because all the winches for both Nr1 and Nr2 hatches all had to be used to work the Jumbo Boom which I will show when I get to Nr2 hatch:



1 hatch down, 4 to go.




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Rigging Hatch Nr2 and the 50-ton Jumbo Boom


The first step was to rig the 2 5-ton booms in the vertical stowed position:



Then the fun started. I usually enjoy rigging blocks because they look good on a model. Up to now a triple block has been the most ambitious for me but this called for 4 quintuple blocks and having to adjust the tension between 20 running lines on the blocks tried my patience. I came to realize that I had to be able to tension the rig after the blocks were set so I decided to use the 1 hatch beam and show it suspended as if it had just been hoisted off the hatch and about to be stowed on deck near the hatch covers that had already been removed. Doing so allowed me to use the 2 tag lines from the bottom of the beam to tension the whole rig.

Once the boom vangs were rigged I was able to attach the shrouds on the foremast so everything is good to go.


The 2 jumbo booms were the only ones that pivoted on their base like a normal crane - the 5-ton booms were fixed in place. In order to swing such a large boom the vangs had to be taken to power using the capstans on the 2 winches on the adjacent hatch so using a jumbo boom required 4 winches and prevented the adjacent hatch from being worked at the same time.


Doing this part of the build showed me what a huge job it was on these ships to shift between the 5-ton booms and the jumbo booms or vice versa. As shown now, to go back to using the 5-ton booms their cargo whips would have to be unwound from the storage reels on top of the mast house and laid out on deck. Then the Jumbo boom cargo whip and topping lift wires would have to be removed from the winches on Nr2 hatch, wound onto the storage reels, and then the 5-ton cargo whips wound onto the winches. It is hard to imagine a more dirty, difficult and dangerous job than wrestling with so much thick wire rope, all of it covered in thick slushing grease and full of needle sharp broken wire strands and fish hooks. Tough, tough guys.




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Hatch Nr3 Rigging


This hatch, like the last 2 to still to come, is rigged as a “Burton” or “Yard and Stay,” rig which had several variations. This hatch is rigged as the “standard” type. What made these rigs interesting for me is that the booms do not move during the cargo operation; the cargo can be moved anywhere along a line connecting the 2 points directly under the end of each boom by coordinating the 2 cargo winches. In this case one boom is positioned directly over the center of the hatch and the other over the side of the ship for loading to/from a pier or lighter.


When I was onboard the SS John Brown in Baltimore they ran a demonstration of a yard and stay rig at work, pretty simple when you see it in operation but it took a lot of concentration by the winch operators and foreman, one missed signal and the winches could end up pulling against each other which would quickly collapse the whole rig, with all the expected death and destruction.


Here the 2 cargo whips are rigged together and secured to an eye pad near the hatch:


I had to install the life raft racks before rigging the guys to make sure there would be no interference. The racks are made up of 4 pieces of VERY thin laser cut wood. It was a little intimidating cutting them loose from their fret/billet but once they were glued up they are pretty sturdy:


Here is the final rigging, minus rope coils that will come later - it is starting to look pretty busy:



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On 5/28/2019 at 7:29 AM, schooner said:

Thanks for the kind words



Please allow me to make a suggestion. There are photoetched in 1/700 scale for plastic kits. Probably you might like them to use in the rigging of your Liberty.


Kind Regards,



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Rigging Hatch Nr 4



I lost a few weeks of work when I did not pay attention to my supply bin and ran out of rigging thread. It has finally come in so I can press on.


This hatch, like Nr2, also has a jumbo boom (30 ton vice 50 ton) which I decided to rig in the vertical stowed position:



Since Nr4 hatch will be the only completely “open” hatch on this build I wanted to show a suspended load above it. I thought it would be quick and easy to find a truck or bulldozer online but it ends up that 1/192 (1/16 inch) scale is not used for model railroading and there is really nothing out there near this scale that I could use so I decided to whip up a large crate.  After numerous attempts and a lot of bad language I was about to give up because I could not get all the corners square, then I had a DUH! moment and realized I did not need to build a 6-sided box - I could just get a piece of rectangular stock of the right width and height, cut it to length and “plank” it which ended up being very simple to do:



This boom arrangement is a variation Yard and Stay rig used on hatch Nr3, this one being called the West Coast Rig. It is supposed to work faster but I’m not sure why. Since this hatch is completely open I arranged the removed hatch covers and hatch beams along the unengaged side:


Just one more hatch to go and this build is almost done:


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