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Willie L. Bennett by SWOHammer (Rob Kallman) - Model Shipways - Scale 3/8" - First Build


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Hello Fellow Shipwrights,

I bought the Model Shipways' Willie L. Bennett kit about 6 years ago, but have been intimidated to start.  Plus I'm active-duty Navy (Surface Warfare), and have been stationed on ships for the past 3 years.  Now that I'm on shore duty (and about 18 months from retiring after 29 years of service), I am making the time to start learning this craft.

 

At any rate, I finally decided to start this thing.  I am using the instructions as well as the excellent series of articles written by Kurt Van Dahm (2004, Ships in Scale).

 

After building the build-board, I started working on the keelson assembly but immediately hit a snag.  The dimensions of the keelson pieces (it comes in three that are glued together) don't match the drawing near the aft end.  Model Expo is sending a new sheet with the laser-cut keelson on it, I'm just hoping it has the correct dimensions.  Worst case, I'll just modify the skeg to account for the missing section of the keelson.

 

Has anyone else had this issue?

 

Here is a photo of my build board (I added additional strength members because it felt too flimsy to me, even with the triangle braces on each side). 

 

Last question (for now):  What is the best way to create the proper camber on the deck?  Do people make a jig, eyeball it, use a template, or some other technique?

 

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Welcome to the forum.

 

I felt compelled to jump in to let you know that we have all felt the anxiety of "the first build."  However, the folks on this forum are true craftsmen and always willing to lend a hand.  It is the only way I could have overcome the many challenges of a POB wooden ship kit.

 

You build board looks great.  I have made mental note, since I used a table vice, and your rig would have been better.

 

Get ready to face snags in the build process.  Model Shipways makes great kits, and their customer service is outstanding. But all kits require the "impromptu" actions. If your Keelson piece does not meet the shape of the plan, consider cutting the shape out of the plan and tracing it on a some scrap sheet material from the kit (if there is enough on the periphery). Just a suggestion that most of us have had to do from time to time.  I have been doing that a lot since I have decided to replace all of my basswood and plywood parts from my Niagara kit with cherry. Having access to a jig saw helps.

 

I am not sure I understand your question regarding the deck "camber," but doing things by eye are pretty routine, so getting good at that will serve you well throughout the process.

 

Good luck and happy building.  Feel free to stop in anytime.

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Welcome to the Skipjacket club, Rob. I too am struggling with this kit altho it is not my first kit. I started it some years back, got frustrated with the rather cluttered plans (blueprints), put it back in the box and onto the shelf for several years while I built a few more kits.  Picked it back up this year. My build log is in my signature below.  My memory is a little vague but I think I ran into the same issue you're having but can't remember how I solved unfortunately.

 

There are several excellent build logs for the kit here on MSW which I have been using as reference. Use the MSW Search function and you will find the rest of them.

 

Good luck with your build.

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Thanks for the tips thus far; I will fabricate some fillers for the keelson using the excess material that the laser-cut parts came from.  If they don't seem right and I get the right parts from Model Expo, I will swap them out.  In the meantime, I'm working on cutting and fitting ancillary parts that I will need soon after I build the keel assembly (knees, strongbacks, stiffeners, etc.).  It seems like so many items are "built to fit" so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.  Maybe I'll work on the pushboat instead since it is an independent build.

 

See you all soon!!

Rob

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  • 3 weeks later...

After much hand-wringing and AMAZING customer service from Model Expo, I fixed my keelson issue.  You can follow the issue here: keelson question but I wanted to include some photos (in case someone else runs into this issue, which presumably, someone will.

 

Summary: The new keelson I got from Model Expo was the exact same size as the one I had originally, and did not match the plan (presumably, the laser cut is different than it used to be).  I used the sprue from the keelson laser-cut sheet to match the arc of the keelson and sandwiched three of them together and glued the new part to the bottom of my keelson, traced the line of the keelson from the drawing, and then shaped it with my Dremel sanding drum in the Dremel drill press.

 

Finally!  I'm ready to move along and actually start building a Skipjack!  While waiting for the keelson issue to be resolved, I started pre-cutting parts I knew I needed soon (transom, transom stiffeners, skeg, foregrip shoe, skeg battens; they still need some slight trimming once they are in place).  Hopefully I'll have some new photos by the end of the three-day weekend!!

post-25136-0-79735100-1467418751_thumb.jpgpost-25136-0-83878200-1467418753_thumb.jpgpost-25136-0-49604600-1467418755_thumb.jpgNote:  Not TWO SECONDS after I took the last photo, I spilled an entire glass of wine all over EVERYTHING within a 3 foot radius!!!!  Now my keelson, skeg, etc. is a nice shade of Cabernet.  Good thing this part of the model will be painted...

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Happy Independence Day, Fellow Shipwrights!

 

It was a very productive weekend.  I solved my keelson issue, glued the skeg, foregrip shoe, and skeg battons together, glued that assembly to the keelson, attached the keel assembly to the build board, and glued the chine logs.  It actually has the shape of a ship!!  I know I have a long way to go, but I feel like I'm finally on the right track.  Figuring out the angles to cut the chine at the transom and the inner stem was very tricky, and I ended up just eyeballing it (for lack of a better way)...is there a tried-and-true method for this for next time?  After reading the Van Dahm article, I used his method of the cup hooks and rubber bands...worked like a dream.

 

Thanks in advance for the feedback, and I will see you in the fleet!

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Rob, it looks like you are off to a great start on your first build. I admit I too am curious about your hook and rubber band set up you have. It does look like a good way of holding those battens in place. I'm assuming from looking at the pictures that there is just enough tension to hold the wood in place and not bend it out of shape.

 

I think I will follow along and watch your build.

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Sam and E.J.,

I got the idea for using the hooks and rubber bands from the Seaways' Ships in Scale article series on the Willie L. Bennett Skipjack (published May through Dec 2004) written by Kurt Van Dahm.  They held the chine logs in place against the molds perfectly; no weird twisting or unnatural curves.  Also, I used 5-minute epoxy and pins to hold everything in place.  So far, I'm happy with the way it's turning out.  I'm going to remove the rubber bands tonight so I'm crossing my fingers that everything holds together!!!  I'll report whether it worked or not because I'm also curious to see how the shape turns out without the tension of the bands.

 

E.J., There is still plenty of room at the bar for you, enjoy the complimentary pretzels.

 

Thanks for the likes!!

 

Cheers!!

Rob

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NEAR DISASTER!!!  The rubber bands put a little to much strain on mold #6 and caused it to buckle a little on the starboard side.  When I tried straightening it out, it cracked in half horizontally.  Being a former Damage Control Officer, I quickly put my skills to use.  I cut and glued shores to each side of the mold, but I need to be more careful in the future.  I think I'm just going to shore up all of the molds on the outboard sides to prevent similar casualties.  The center of the molds are strengthened well-beyond what was suggested in the instructions, but I neglected to do anything to the outboard sides.  Dang.  Oh well, new day, new lesson learned.

 

That all said, I removed the rubber bands and it looks like the chines are shaped the way they are supposed to be.  The only thing that troubles me is that the chine doesn't completely "sit" in the molds' grooves so I'll need to tackle that problem when I glue the sides on. 

 

At any rate, I can report that the rubber band/hook technique was a success, despite the problem. 

 

Next comes the tedious task of tapering the chine logs and the rabbetts for the bottom planking that will commence once I get the sides glued on.

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I am also building the Willie Bennett.  Started 20 years ago but got side tracked with life.  Retired now so I want to finish it.  I'm a little ahead of you (I'll post a picture soon) but any change you can share the Ships in Scale article on the build?

PM sent

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Update:  Beveled the chine logs and the rabbet for the bottom hull planking (great technique described in the instruction manual, but I used a small file rather than a sanding block).  I knew I'd run into snags sooner or later (doesn't everyone?).  Found out that my chine logs were glued too far inboard on the transom so I had to fix that in order for the sides to fit properly.  For the starboard side, tried to cut the chine log off the transom and resposition it only to find it too short.  Ended up replacing the entire thing (after beveling it for hours, mind you).  The port side was also off, but I ended up building up the chine log with some stock and then reshaped it.  Wish I had thought of that for the port side; MUCH quicker and less painful.

 

At any rate, got past that issue, beveled both chine logs, cut out the sides, measured and marked the sheer line, trimmed the sheer to fit, and glued the sides on (one at a time, leaving about an hour after gluing the port side to allow the glue to set before removing the clothes pins).

That's where I am right now.  After I bevel the bottoms of the side to match the bevel of the chine logs, I'll post pictures and start the dubious task of bottom planking.

 

Cheers,

Rob

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Good Evening Fellow Shipwrights,

 

Well, shaping the sides to match the bevel of the chine logs is taking longer than I had anticipated, so I thought I'd bring you all up to date with photographs starting on Friday and ending tonight.  I swear, I take two steps forward and one back. Thank whoever invented glue and tape (and wood filler).  I'll be using it aplenty once I get the bottom planking in. ;)

 

Cheers,

Rob

 

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Here is the chine log meeting the keelson.  You can see where the bevel changes to mount the forward "chunks"

 

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Bow aspect of the chine log bevel

 

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Starboard side (the keelson isn't as beat up as it looks...nothing a little filler won't fix...besides, the chunks will cover them anyway).

 

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Don't laugh...I didn't want to use too FEW clothespins!!!

 

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Port side (after trimming sheer but before starting to bevel the sides to match the chine log

 

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Stbd side (same as above)

 

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Starting to resemble something nautical...maybe.  Looks as if the skeg has a list but I think it is a trick of the quality cell phone camera.  It lines up straight with a rule.

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Good Evening Fellow Shipwrights,

 

I got the sides of the Willie B. glued and beveled, and I'm ready to start planking the bottom.  I'm building a jig to simplify cutting the inboard angle of the planks, but once that is done, I'll begin.  I hope to have the entire bottom finished by the end of this weekend, which will be the end of building the "basic" hull and I'll be ready to take this thing off the building board and the "real" work can start!! 

 

Being in a Drydock is the toughest time to be aboard a ship...Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong on the seas!!

 

I hope you all are doing well and thanks in advance for your constructive criticism!!!

 

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Good Evening Fellow Shipwrights,

 

Thank you all for your kind feedback and likes; it really helps motivate me.

 

Also, thank you, Kurt Van Dahm for responding to my question I PM'd about the camber.  I'll respond to your message in kind, but wanted to publicly acknowledge my appreciation for your assistance.

 

It's been a few days since I provided an update, but I wanted to have substantial progress before sharing.  I'm almost finished planking the bottom; I have a couple of the thicker planks to trim and I have to carve the "chunks" on the bow.

 

I've noticed that even as careful as I was, I'm going to have to sand so much of the bottom down to make it all even, I'm wondering if I should get most of it true and then use putty to fill in the planks that are still too low...Thoughts?

 

For those of you who have already built this model, do I need to trim the stem (most forward part of the bow) to be even with the forward part of the keelson?  There are drawings in the instruction book that seem to indicate that I do, but others, make it look like it still ends up at a fine taper.  I know I have to add the cutwater, and the very forward part of the bow will need to be flat to fit that piece, but I'd think I would only trim the stem until it is as thick as the wood used for the cutwater.  What did you do?

 

Thanks, and here are some photos showing the progression.

 

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I left the aft end of the bottom plank "square" as shown in the instructions, though I've seen many shipwrights sand them down to be flush with the transom.  While just getting started, I was cutting each plank and measuring each angle every time.  I knew there HAD to be a better way...

 

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...So I made this jig which made things a little faster, but the angles weren't perfect so each plank had to be individually fitted anyway; nevertheless, I think it sped things up a bit.

 

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Progress on the Port side.  Decided to mostly finish the port side before finishing the stbd side.  Easier to cut the same angle rather than switch back and forth because there was a little variation between the two sides.

 

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You can see how I had to "fan" out the forward planks as well as use thicker wood because of the "twist" between the chine and the rabbett.

 

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Port side trimmed and sanded.  Took a long time to make those thicker planks look like they are part of the same ship!!

 

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Port side "chunk" glued on.  A bit intimidated to start carving it.  Think I'll finish up the starboard side first and then try not to screw it up too badly!!

 

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I look forward to your continued critical and constructive feedback.  Thanks in advance!

 

See you all in the fleet!

 

Cheers,

Rob

 

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It looks like you have a good handle on this one as she is shaping up nicely. As to the putty, that is typically what I will do. The preliminary sanding helps to show where you need the fill at.

 

The big question is what are your plans for the outside finish? If you are double planking then go ahead and use the putty to your hearts content. If painting or staining then be carefull on both the type and quantity of putty used as it can show through both finishes if you are not careful. It is less of an issue with paint other than it can cover your planks seams but if sanded down properly amd not globbed on then you will be fine. Stain is a lot trickier as you can see it and so extra care should be taken with both the color of the filler and trying not to use too much.

 

I have not built this ship myself so I can't really help you much on the other questions but I am sure someone will chime n shortly with those answers. Keep up the great work!

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Good Morning, Happy Friday, Everyone!!!

 

E.J.,

Thanks for the tip.  The "conventional" finish is paint on the hull and vertical surfaces, and stain on the deck and other horizontal surfaces.  I think I'll end up doing just that, depending on how the decking turns out.  I think the hull looks great with the hull red below the waterline and white above.

 

I forgot to post the last couple of photos I took last night that show where I was when the yardworkers punched out.

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I need to pluck up the courage to start carving the chunks; the ONLY experience I have with a chisel was the other night when i shaped the forward bottom planks.

 

See you in the Fleet!!

 

Cheers,

Rob

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I am following your posts with interest as you are breaking ground for my build of this model. In carving I find the following: a very sharp chisel, don't be afraid to saw some of the overhang off, if that is balsa or even bass I would use a sharp gouge to remove some of the excess and pare with a chisel as you approach the correct contours. Also when excavating remove the material starting at the bow and work aft. i hope these suggestions don't insult your intelligence. They are just basic methods for any carving. I really like your work. 

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Thistle,

You are absolutely NOT insulting my intelligence; I drive and fix ships made of steel, blood, and sweat in the Navy for a living, and have done so for almost 28 years.  In that time, I've had little opportunity to learn how to carve wood; thus, I have NO experience...zero, zilch.  I need the BASICS!!  Thanks!!!

 

Cheers,

Rob

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