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Launch Antares by WoodButcher - SMALL - Finished

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I recently retired, and having no current hobby apart from reading, decided that I'd take up model-making.


 My first attempt was a plastic kit set sailing ship (U.S.S. Constitution - Revell 1:146). I wanted a sailing ship



 so I could take a lot of time rigging it. The model has three suggestions for rigging; easy (just the moulded



 shrouds/ratlines), medium ( a few ropes) and hard (fully rigged). It was the first model I'd made in 50 years 



and I made plenty of mistakes. But - from a distance, with the light behind her - she doesn't look too bad.



But as a retired person I have limited money, limited workshop room and tools, and unlimited time. 



Complex plastic models are expensive so I decided to build a wooden model from scratch.






I found the plans of the motor launch Antares on the net. It is an attractive vessel and I thought it would do as a beginner's project.



The plans assume it is motorised and radio-controlled, but my interest is in the making, not the playing with. So I would omit these.






Just to make life really interesting I decided to build the entire thing out of popsicle sticks. In the absence of the expensive tools that grace the workbenches of some of the model-making community, having pre-machined wood would simplify some aspects of construction (and complicate others). Besides, I wanted to show off a real planking deck.






But the real purpose was to require serious thinking in changing the design to suit the materials. Anything to stave off senility!






(For people interested in a proper build project of the Antares by a newbie see



 http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2008415 It has some excellent photographs and useful discussions.)






However, although I have always loved working with my hands, I am a real butcher - thus the handle. So a model made of recalcitrant fiddly bits is going to be a real challenge.






I read the caveats for newbies, and have progressed the model somewhat before I took the plunge to start this blog.






Because the model would not be motorised I could build solid bulkheads for much of the hull, rather than the frames in the plans. But to get a solid bulkhead from small pieces requires constructing plywood.






The bulkheads were straightforward to assemble, but the first constraint became immediately obvious when it came to making the keel. The plan has a nicely curved stem. I had to have a very straight stem because the sticks were not wide enough to give a curve. (I subsequently concluded that I could have taken more trouble and built a curved stem, but that was hindsight). This decision would give me trouble with the chine line later.






I glued the two layers of (large) popsicle sticks together using a multi-purpose glue, one layer on one direction and one in the other to give them strength.  I cut the bulkheads roughly to shape using a child's coping saw - it was the blade with the smallest set and smallest teeth I could find.






The sticks appear to be made out of pine (pinus radiata) and I soon found that where I hadn't glued with a full coat there was a tendency for the wood to splinter. I wound up doing some after-the-fact gluing, and inserting replacement pieces where chunks had fallen out. I did final bulkhead shaping with an orbital sander.






The keel is made of three layers; two on the outside being normal-width sticks and the middle being the wider and longer sticks. The purpose of this was to give slots in the base of the bulkheads somewhere to attach to (i.e. to the middle layer of the keel). 






I built a multi-purpose jig out of a piece of wood with numerous nail-holes, laid the keel and attached the bulkheads with their slots cut to it. It was immediately obvious that the #1 bulkhead would have to be omitted as the straight stem wouldn't accommodate it.






The jig wasn't totally successful for this; not all the bulkheads turned out to be held square to the keel!









Once I'd glued all the bulkheads in place it became obvious that not all the slots I'd cut in the bulkheads were the full depth required! I.e. the tops didn't all align (and neither did all the sides, but that would be bad shaping) and some bulkheads didn't sit hard on top of the keel - this would give problems with mounting the garboards etc later.



Time to use the trusty orbital sander for corrections; at least to the top and sides. Corrections to allow even hull planking would have to wait.


Edited by WoodButcher

Measure once, cut twice.

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What a challenge you've set for yourself.  That's going to be a lot of popsicles you'll have to eat.



Every build is a learning experience.


Current build:  SS_ Mariefred


Completed builds:  US Coast Guard Pequot   Friendship-sloop,  Schooner Lettie-G.-Howard,   Spray,   Grand-Banks-dory

                                                a gaff rigged yawl,  HOGA (YT-146),  Int'l Dragon Class II,   Two Edwardian Launches 


In the Gallery:   Catboat,   International-Dragon-Class,   Spray

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The plans suggest the next step is attaching the hull planking, from the keel upwards. Because I didn't trust the squareness of the jig I decided to put the planking just under the deck first, to ensure the bulkheads were held solidly in place. If you look at the paper glued to some of the bulkheads you'll note there is an notch for an extra thick plank. Since I was using wood of a given thickness I decided to use a double thickness layer instead. I started with the first layer. Which meant getting into wood bending.


I tried the trick of wrapping sticks in a wet flannel and microwaving them, but this didn't seem to work at all. So I tried soaking them in hot (boiled) water for five minutes and shaping them after that. This worked, and I discovered - to my delight - that once the sticks were dry they remained quite malleable. I.e. having shaped them in a jig or otherwise I could further bend them (adding a second curve, adjusting the first curve) to some extent and they would stay in shape.

post-26267-0-15421100-1475216419_thumb.jpg This addition to the model really began to show up errors in the alignment of the bulkheads. In particular the top edges of the deck were uneven, and the curve from stem to stern bore some resemblance to a sine wave.


Knowing that I didn't need to be precise with my bending I began to mass-produce bent sticks.


Firstly from the jig - leaving aside the aforementioned malleability - this was still the appropriate method for bending to double curves. And for bending where one end of the stick needs a stronger curve than the other


Eventually I tried soaking the sticks in cold water (for about five minutes) and this worked equally well as hot water. So I began mass-production of single-curve sticks. Although some decided to shape themselves to double curves when forced into the vice anyway.


The bending was not always successful. The quality of the sticks varied. While most were reasonably solid, some snapped, some were a bit thin or narrow and some were too rough. And some didn't bend smoothly - they adopted a rather sharp angle at one point.

Edited by WoodButcher

Measure once, cut twice.

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And so to the planking.


I started from the stern working outwards from the keel and downwards from the deck, arranging that these should meet on the chine line. I cautiously advanced the two rows towards the bow because I really had no idea what should happen to the chine angle as it approached the stem, nor what the shape of the planks would be as they curved inwards - only that there would be some narrowing. But narrow them all, or just one or two?


Because the sticks are short the maximum span a single plank could have was three bulkheads. To allow for the interlocking planks some (at the bow and stern) only spanned two bulkheads. 


Where one of the bulkheads was lower (from the bottom) than it should have been I could leave a gap between it and the plank if the offending bulkhead was in the middle of the span. But if it was at the end of the span I had to chop a small sliver of wood to go under the plank to make it (sort of) align correctly.


With the shorter pieces of planking the problem of uneven bulkheads was yet more acute.


From the top where you can't see the joints it doesn't look too bad.




But once you can see the joints its a real mess!




So - as I expected it was time for vast quantities of filler to cover up my sins.



And then lots of sanding.


Edited by WoodButcher

Measure once, cut twice.

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Hi WoodButcher

That's funny. It seems that you and I both have a mutual friend. His name is Putty!!! And...very useful he is, too, because I use it so much  :) !

I really like what you've done so far. The last photo shows what looks to be a nicely faired hull, with a well defined chine and garboard plank. Nicely done!

The other thing that surprised me is the length of the hull; i.e. 40cms. The reason being that my initial thought was the use of popsicle sticks meant that the hull would've been much smaller. However, it looks like you've used them really well and compensated for the bulkhead issue that you mentioned.

I'm looking forward to seeing your next updates!



Edited by Omega1234
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I have lost count of the number of times I've filled, painted, sanded, filled, painted and sanded and I still don't have a defect-free surface for the hull. This is more to do with the craftsman than the construction materials and - since I'm very pleased with the curves I've achieved - I'll have a couple more attempts.

The photos don't show the defects so they can't be too bad, but I'd like something that looks good in close-up.




I haven't been entirely idle while waiting for the filler or paint to dry.

The original plan has the deck well attached to the cabin and both removable as a single piece to give access to the motor. Since I don't need this I've built the well in situ, without difficulty.


I've started the decking but since I want the plank joins to be obvious when I stain the wood I want to sand it as little as possible. So I need to complete the hull painting before I deck completely so as to avoid sanding overspray. Thus the deck planks so far don't meet the hull edges.


Edited by WoodButcher

Measure once, cut twice.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The next step was to build the cabin. The wood I'm using has a tendency to split when making longitudinal cuts, so I decided I'd try and minimize this likelihood by using temporary two-ply. I.e. I would glue the port and starboard sides together using (water-soluble) PVA, make the cuts and then soak the ply in water to separate the pieces. This would have the additional advantage that the port and starboard sides should be cut symmetrically; something rather lacking elsewhere. To further simplify the task I used the wider sticks.


I started with the windscreen, and the cutting went well. Unfortunately when the time came to separate the port and starboard sides the glue proved more resistant to dissolving than I had expected, and I had to pry the pieces apart using a knife blade. This resulted in a couple of the window pillars cracking. But I wasn't prepared to give up after all the careful and laborious cutting  I'd done, so I cut a few braces (which also joined top and bottom) and glued and clamped the lot in a vice. The result was very strong and more-or-less without blemish where the cracks had been.


Thus encouraged I started on the sides. The original plan had three side windows, but they had fairly narrow pillars between them. The result was that my cutting of windows produced two major breaks (being four breaks total for port and starboard in total). This really was beyond salvage, so I started again with only two windows per side, and a wider pillar.

The cutting was successful, and overnight soaking made the separation of the two sides easier. I added some bracing to attach the pairs (top and bottom).


I've taken some liberties with the shape of the stern end of the cabin sides, otherwise the rear wall would have looked odd.

 Once I had all the pieces with their final shaping it was time to assemble the cabin. This was a task I had been dreading, because there were a lot of angles which had to be glued perfectly and I couldn't think of a convenient jig that would give me the predetermined angles that the decking and well required. Perhaps I should have started the cabin considerably earlier.

Edited by WoodButcher

Measure once, cut twice.

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I am always amazed by the differences from the start of planking to the finished hull after painting. 



Current builds  Bristol Pilot Cutter 1:8;      Skipjack 19 foot Launch 1:8;       Herreshoff Buzzards Bay 14 1:8

Other projects  Pilot Cutter 1:500 ;   Maria, 1:2  Now just a memory    

Future model Gill Smith Catboat Pauline 1:8

Finished projects  A Bassett Lowke steamship Albertic 1:100  


Anything you can imagine is possible, when you put your mind to it.

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The original plans had the cabin sitting on top of the decking, but I decided to inset it into the deck, as I thought it would give me cleaner joins (the straight lines from the sticks of the deck beside the straight lines of the cabin walls), and I wasn't looking forward to shaping the deck curve on the bottom of the windscreen. This meant instead cutting a straight V into the forward deck, which was relatively easy.


and then placing the planks on the side decking beside the cabin, thus giving a tight fit.

The cabin build was difficult, as I had to use the deck V to give the angles of the windscreen (side to side) and somehow hold the sides in place at the same time to attach the windscreen to them. But eventually it all held together.


Note that I am using three-ply for the beams to give more room for gluing ( and measurement errors). I should have done this for the hull frames, but we live and learn.

But - as I feared - the pre-constructed cabin really didn't fit properly. There was a gap between the windscreen and the forward deck, and a gap from the rear of the cabin to the well sides, and the whole cabin was 3 - 4 mm off to one side as a result of the centre of the deck V being offset..

Rather than start building a new cabin from scratch I decided to bite the bullet and site the front of the cabin on top of the deck, add extensions to the back to make it longer and commit surgery upon the side deck planks to make the cabin placement central.

The irony of the cabin extensions was that, in order to add pieces to lengthen the cabin I had to use two-ply to hold the extensions in place. Which was where the cabin building started.


After a lot of hacking, cutting, sanding, guesswork and gluing I had a cabin that fitted reasonably well and that would allow me to progress.


Edited by WoodButcher

Measure once, cut twice.

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  • 2 weeks later...

And the rest is mere detailing.



All still done with popsicle sticks, except the glass and the carpet in the well (which is a piece of 240 grade sandpaper).

The finish isn't as good as I would have liked, but I had many attempts to get things perfect and failed. But I had to live up to my name and I've had a lot of fun constructing it.



Measure once, cut twice.

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I think it looks great.  I hope you have a nice place picked out to display her.

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans                             Triton Cross-Section   

                                                                                                                       USS Constellaton (kit bashed to 1854 Sloop of War  _(Gallery) Build Log

                                                                                Wasa (Gallery)

                                                                                                                        HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               


Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         



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