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Hubac's Historian

Soleil Royal by Hubac's Historian - Heller - An Extensive Modification and Partial Scratch-Build

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Heller's Royal Louis for me, and some other commissions for a historian friend, a kitbash of IMAI's Galeass which rather changes the ship's profile quite a bit, as well as a conversion of Heller's Golden Hint into the Tyger. Sovereign is a bit on hold. I would really love to get my hands on a Soleil Royal just like you magnificent model here. 

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So, this is a work in process, and probably the most challenging reconciliation between Berain’s intent and the pre-established Heller kit architecture.


I’m using a black and white reproduction of the original drawing as my guide because the detail reads more clearly; it somehow seems easier to gauge the relative proportions of elements and their true line.


As I expected, my lower gallery windows are taller appearing, but the frames and openings more closely match the original drawing:


I will continue onto the starboard side and fill in the ornamental cartouche that is placed at the top center of each frame.  I just wanted to get a sense for the impression of the thing before I continued drawing.


Along those lines, I realized it would also be a good idea to begin sussing out what the aft profile of the quarter galleries will be.  What I have arrived at, so far, comes pretty close to Berain, but the less sloped tumblehome of the Heller kit makes it impossible to get much closer than this.  Bear in mind that none of the projecting mouldings of the railings are drawn in, so that makes the following comparison a little difficult to imagine:



What all of this does allow for is enough depth, outboard from the hull, to taper down the QG lower finishing.  I will also have a reasonable perch for the figure of The Americas to sit upon.  Of course, everything above the middle balcony rail (the small Xs) remains conjectural until after I have attached the upper bulwarks and can take exact measurements.


One contemporary drawing that will be useful for gauging overall perspective is this unknown portrait of a three-decker at Rochefort:


Some of the most useful information about the aft edge of the lower finishing, is completely obscured, but the sense of slope and projection from the hull are useful guides, as the structure of what I am trying to replicate is so very close to this design.


To be continued...


Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Wow, Dan - that really makes a difference.


You know, I’m still on the fence as to whether I should represent the top stern balcony (quarter deck level) as a small “Juliette” balcony, spanning the center two windows, or a wider balcony that spans all six windows and ends at the ship sides.


Both this drawing and the original strongly suggest that the Juliette balcony is the way to go.  Tanneron did not believe so, though.


As I’ve stated before, though, my personal belief is that Tanneron pulled from a variety of mid-17th century and late 17th century sources to create a composite of what SR may have looked like at the time of her launching in 1670.


That would explain the open quarters, the open lower stern balcony and the very tall stern.  It might also explain the presence of the sort of heraldic ornaments, in the quarter gallery openings, that we see between the middle deck guns in early portraits of the Monarque and the Dauphin Royal.


As so much of Tanneron’s model is missing, or incomplete though, it is hard to know why he did not continue with the ornamental program of the ship sides, and why he did not complete the structure and ornamentation of the head.

Although only a glimpse of them is visible behind the feature model (Frolich’s Ambiteaux), the bow structure of Tanneron’s L’Agreable and Brillant can be seen (not really, actually - sorry)  Clearly, he knew that the head rails had to be supported from underneath.



Although, the head rails you are seeing are actually of Capricieux, I know that the head structure of Le Brillant and L’Agreable is complete. 

(photos, courtesy of Marc Yeu, aka Neko).


Anyway, I’m leaning towards the Juliette balcony both because there is a plausible argument to be made for it, and also because it would be a representational choice that has not been put out there yet.  Maybe doing so will spur debate.


Ultimately, I keep returning to the Monarque, where I believe the Juliette balcony is what is being depicted.


It makes sense to me that this relationship between the middle and upper balconies may have carried over into the near Second Marine reconstruction of SR.  Berain’s drawing is, after all, “l’Apres Puget,” or in the manner and style of Puget.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Marc - 


Yes, I think the upper balcony is only two bays wide, judging from this drawing.

It also looks to me that the middle balcony is two bays wide, with decorative extensions to shade the 4-bay lower balcony.

Is that how you see it?



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Yes, Dan, going by the shadows, that is also a strong argument for the middle balcony.  I’m inclined to follow the wrapping open walk structure, with a shallow ornamental amortisement above, that is often in evidence for ships of this later Second Marine, though.


The trouble is that Berain shows the figures of Autumn and Winter at the ship’s sides and just before the quarter galleries.


Now, when you consider both the black and white quarter drawing, as well as the color quarter portrait by Vary, this figure of Winter is clearly supporting the middle balcony.  At the very least, then (if you accept the premise, as I do, that these stern and quarter drawings belong together), the middle balcony extends at least to the ship’s sides.


Perhaps the middle balcony ends at the ship sides and does not wrap to the quarters.  The reason that I do not think this is so, however, is that the archway upon which the side figures of Africa and the Americas sit, is shown as an open archway, as opposed to a glazed opening.  I believe that this open archway is a pass-through for the open walk to the quarters.  Essentially, this is what Lemineur depicts with his model of the St. Pilippe.

Also of interest on the St. Philippe, there is no upper balcony, but merely the ornamental fretwork of a balcony rail.  So, that further lends credence to the idea of a vestigial Juliette balcony on the upper level, if at all.


All that being said, these are just a few of the ambiguities that make modeling this ship so difficult.

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You’re as nimble on the computer as any GEN-Zer I’ve ever seen.  That is dynomite, Dan, and pretty perfectly illustrates the way that I look at these images.


Also of note is the fact that both of these stern and quarter drawings are labeled, above, in the same style - as is the bow drawing (admittedly sans forecastle).  This does not explicitly, in and of itself, make them all a  matched set, but it would seem to indicate that the images were catalogued at the same time, and therefore contemporaneous with each other.


As ever, thank you!

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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I hope that everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving.  We certainly did.


My transom planking continues, and at this point, I am planking across the opening for the rudder head.  Before completing the last few strakes, leading into the stern counter, I wanted to pause and see whether I could modify one of the kit’s stock ornaments, in an attempt to present a more faithful representation of Berain’s stern.


What I am focused on, here, is the pendant ornament that drops from the lower false gallery and conceals the rudder head.  For all practical purposes, I suppose that this ornament’s intended purpose was to limit the intake of water, through the rudder head opening, in a following sea.  I’m not sure whether that is the truth, but it’s a theory, anyway.

What is interesting about Berain’s drawing is the way in which the Palladian shell backdrop recesses, up into the lower false balcony.


The stock Heller ornament is intended to mount beneath a walkable lower stern balcony, as seen here, on Tanneron’s model.

Heller reproduces this detail quite faithfully.  It’s nicely done, and would be difficult to carve from scratch, in a way that suits my purposes.  I do have two of these ornaments, though.


By separating the Louis head and its shell backdrop from the acanthus leaf cheeks, I should be able to set the head so that the counter planking of the false stern balcony abuts it, flush all around.  I would then remove the head and shell from my spare ornament and mount the acanthus cheeks just behind the head, once I’ve completed the counter planking up behind the head.


This is a difficult thing to describe, but hopefully the following few pics will make it clearer where I’m headed with this.



The head isn’t glued in, just yet.  I’m not sure whether the new angle that I’ve filed into the back of this piece, accurately follows the run of the counter planking.  That will become clearer when I make the bulkheads.  This new angle that I’ve ground into the back will tip the shell background and Louis’s cherubic face up into the visible portion of the counter.  I’m still not entirely sure this will work, but it’s worth the experiment.

This is where the stern window drawing is at.


It was a lot of re-drawing to get these cartouche ornaments equally scaled, but overall I like the size and shape of the windows.  No matter what, they are an improvement over the stock kit windows.


As ever, thank you all for your interest, your likes and your comments.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Hello Marc !

As usual it's a real pleasure to look at your work. At this time, the rudder hole was rectangular, not round. So the rudder rudder head did not pass through the hole but only the rod. The purpose of the carvings was only decorative. 









Soleil Royal 581.JPG

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Hello, Marc!  Thank you for the kind words.


I am without doubt that you are correct in this detail.  I keep a large cache of Berain drawings on my Pinterest page and they all show the rectangular opening, as do these very fine Puget drawings.


Besides these drawings, though, I had no written reference to their shape, and so I ultimately modeled them after what I saw on Olivier Gatine’s model of La Belle, as well as Tusset’s model of the St. Philippe. In all likelihood, I will probably not feel sufficiently motivated to change this on this model.  I will definitely, however, incorporate this into my conjectural model of SR, 1670.


That is, by the way, the best and most clear reproduction I have seen of this port-quarter portrait of Le Dauphin Royal.  Thank you for that!  I’ll be adding it to my image files.


There is a question I’d like to pose to you, Marc.  As I am now figuring out my plan of attack for the stern lights, and the construction of the quarter galleries, I am wondering whether all of the lights in the quarter galleries, at this later time in the 17th C, would have been false lights, with lone exception, perhaps, being the Admiral’s quarters on the quarter deck level?


If that is so, I would back-paint my false lights in a stylized way to represent glass.

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Hi Marc . . . and Marc - 


I believe that the rudder hole was rectangular because the tiller (in blue) went through it, not the rudder.

The tiller, in turn, was connected to the whipstaff (in red) that pivoted through a rowell or rowl (in green)

Here the rudder head is housed in a closed off box, but many that I have seen end just above the tiller and below the counter.

This from an illustration by Phillips from around 1690.  I'm sorry but I have misplaced the full information on the illustration.






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I’ve been going back and forth over whether to modify the appearance of my rudder opening.  When I framed the stern, I wasn’t thinking about the reality of how the stern post would end just above the framing of the ports, so that the tiller could pass over it, and into the hull.

I was primarily concerned with strength and tying my transverse round-up bulkheads into the sternpost.  It certainly isn’t worth the extra effort, to me, to cut down the stern post, so that I can model the entry of the tiller into the hull.


While I agree with Marc and Dan about what the opening probably should look like, at least there is some scholarly thought to support  what I chose to represent, at this later time in 1689.


Here is what Lemineur shows for the entry of the St. Philippe’s (1693) rudder head and tiller:

As I say, I will take this learning experience into the next model.


Here is my finished lower window drawing:


I think it is definitely an improvement over the Heller layout:


The drawing of the thing is usually harder than the making of the thing.


I’m finishing up with the last of the gun carriages.  Following that, I’ll make up the transom wale and my motto banner.  Then, I’ll get busy making this window tier.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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I wasn’t expecting to be in the city shop, these few days, but whenever the opportunity arises - I like to do whatever tedious pattern work that needs to get done.  Access to a band saw, disc and spindle sanders, simplifies the making of the series of bulkheads that will form the counter/false balcony.


Yesterday, in the shop, I made the first bulkhead that would ultimately serve as the pattern for the others.


First, though, it had to be proof-tested on the model to ensure that it mirrored the already established camber and round-up.


I used my quarter gallery drawing as the basis for my bulkhead profile.  What I discovered, though, was that there are two important notches or step-backs that needed to be cut into the bulkhead; my pattern was based on the exterior, or extreme outline, but I needed to make an allowance for the thickness of the planking.  


My first bulkhead did not, initially have a notch along the bottom.  Using a batten I found that it exaggerated the camber - which would then mess up the whole run of windows I just drew so carefully.


And then, after I cut back the vertical portion that supports the windows, as well as trimming back the counter profile, everything lined up properly, as it should.


Here is today’s workload:  cut out my bulkheads, and cut out the basis for what will be a stacked moulding for the transom wale.  The transom wale seems to be a hair on the heavy side, but I can fine-tune that, once I can offer it up to the model.


Also, now that I have a useable pattern, I could better see how the counter ornaments were going to resolve themselves.  It was really handy to have the bandsaw to waste out the middle (the head and crown) of my spare counter ornament.



Now, certainly, there is too much space between the head and the acanthus scrolls.  What I will do is a bit of visual trickery;  I’m going to let the base of the scrolls into the last of the upper transom planking, so that it glues to the transverse bulkhead beneath.  The  front edge of the acanthus base will also be let into and come out flush with the facia plank (not yet installed) that covers the edge of the transverse bulkhead.  Doing all of this will cut that gap in half.  A little gap is okay for me.


This letting into the planking is technically wrong, but if it all works out as well as I can see it in my imagination, then the wrongness won’t interfere with the perception of its rightness.  As with a number of other aspects of this build - perception of reality is more important than strict reality of construction.  You have to fudge things a little to make them work.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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So, among other small projects - the bulkheads and the transom wale - I’ve made a start of the scrolling banner that I will carve for the area beneath the transom wale, and between the through-bolting of the transom knees.


The scrolling banner that I initially drew was always a sort of placeholder, but not one I really liked.  The motto shown, here, was my own bit of authorial license, before Dan brought something much better to my attention. It’s a little too cartoonish for the French Baroque period:


Eventually Drazen Caric got around to an amazing step-by-step of the carving for the name banner on his incredible Provincien.  The sense of movement that he conveys is much more the impression that I am after.  If anyone is not familiar with his impeccable work, you can find it here.  Posts concerning the name banner begin with post # 304:

The other guiding inspiration is the name banner for the Foudroyant of 1723, which I could finally see in all of its splendor in Floating Baroque:


What I have patterned, here, is not an exact drawing, but it captures the overall shape and sense of movement that I think will look very good in the available space.  Carving the three-dimensional undulations of the ribbon will be a fun little project.  Bear in mind that there will be a 1/4” separation between the two halves, for the sternpost.


I’m thinking that I will probably draw the letters for the latin motto,  NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR, onto parchment.  I can then stiffen them with dilute varnish and cut them out, individually, to be affixed to the banner.


My other experiment was making a moulding scraper.  My first problem is that I want to cut very small coves into the edges of my transom wale - not much larger than 1/32”.  To my mind, at this scale, it is very difficult to shape that small cutting nub into a hardened steel scraper, while maintaining sharp corners.  I have little idea, really, how to do that convincingly.


My first thought was that I’m scraping styrene, so maybe the scrapers don’t need to be steel.  They also don’t have to last forever.  Maybe, I thought, I could make them from aluminum scraps, which I have in abundance.


My second thought was that maybe the cutting nub didn’t have to be shaped into the scraper body; maybe it could be an independent part that I cyano’d in place.


So, this is what I came up with:


I filed a chip relief into the corner, but I did not file all the way to the very back face if the scraper.  I left about a light 1/64”, and I think that even that small lip is enough to clog the action of the scraper.


It works pretty well for a few passes, and then not at all until you really clean it out.


Today, I’ll release the cuter, file back that lip, and introduce a very slight burr to the cutting edge, and we’ll see what that does.


If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to figure out how to make the one-piece, steel scrapers.


Edited by Hubac's Historian

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That’ll be great, Dan.  I just responded to the group mail that I’m coming, and I’ll bring some of the hacksaw stock that I’ve been saving all this time for just this purpose.


I’m looking forward to seeing you, and unlocking the arts and mysteries of moulding scrapers.

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A quick, parenthetical,  thought about your windows and their glazing. If you were to also add a clear coat - "dabbing" such as Model Master Clear Coat lacquer finish - this should reduce the absolutely

flat look of a clear plastic (if that is what you were thinking of doing), and allow for a better look of glass produced back then. 

Following your build is lots of fun.



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Hey MD - thank you for the thought and for your kind words.  I know that I should probably space out my postings to reflect more generous progress, but I am very glad that this interests you, nonetheless.


What I ended up buying for the window stock was a clear poly carbonate, maybe 3/64”, but not quite a 1/16”.  I’d say for sure, but I don’t want to wake my wife, rummaging around for it.  Dan Pariser once told me about a marriage that went south over a very long, long build.


Anyway, when you pull away the plastic protective film, it’s just a perfect mirror glass finish.  How, exactly, would the treatment you’re proposing, affect the surface sheen?  I am always open to suggestion, here.

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Regarding windows the perfect mirror glass finish is what I was thinking of. I'm guessing, but I assume that back then glass had visual waves - not perfectly mirror flat - hence the idea

of adding a clear "something" to visually remove the super flat glass look. But, if your glass panes will be so small it would, then make no difference.


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Hi Michael - 


Yes, the stern windows will be an interesting artistic element for Marc.  I'm looking forward to seeing how he decides.

My mother, who was an American antiquities expert, once did a study of pre-colonial (around 1750) glass.

If I recall her results, it was that most glass, except really low end stuff, was pretty clear and flat when made,

But the composition of the glass meant that it would sag fairly quickly, which is what we see and value now.

But I imagine that the windows of the Admiral's quarters would have been glazed with top quality glass

So I would go with high gloss panes, initially.  If they are too glaring, then satin/eggshell touch-up.


Just one possible way to go.




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One thing you can do is lay the window frame flat on some wax paper.   I've used a product called "Micro-Glaze" from MicroMark.  It's a gel.  Fill the inside area where the glass will be and let it dry.  Gives the appearance of old glass.    I don't know if that's still available though but the name turns up on a Google search and seems to be similar.

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These are all good and interesting ideas for the glass, guys.  I appreciate the input.  I will definitely be using Druxey’s approach of scribing the mullions into polycarbonate.  I may experiment with dabbing the surface of the poly, as MD suggests.


Mark, when I was thinking to recycle the kit windows, I probably would have taken your approach with some sort of liquid glazing.


Well, work continues.  The banner looks really good, and the transom wale is almost complete; I just have to carve my egg and dart motif into the last half-round layer of the stacked moulding.  It will look like a slightly crisper version of this sample that I finally arrived at:


Dan showed me how to make scrapers for the other sections, and the results are better than I expected.


I’m going to disappear for a while until after the holidays. When I return, the entire lower transom will be completely detailed.  The counter/false balcony will be planked.  A start will be made of the detailing/paneling of the lower gallery, and the next section for the lowest tier of windows will be framed in.


I will try, from here out, to exercise a little more restraint in posting.  Sometimes I get carried away on my morning commutes 😉.


Anyway, until then, be well and enjoy your holidays!!

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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