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

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My latest foray into kit-bashing madness, is improving the kit gratings, in an effort to convert them from flat to cambered.

Below is my current inventory of grating pieces for the main and quarter decks.  Mr. Maher donated an incomplete set of red gratings.  The grey and black are my own complete set:



I wanted to first see whether my idea was going to work, so the following picture illustrates the basic process, from left to right:


Laminating one set of gratings to the other affords me the extra thickness I need for the camber.  The blue-board sanding block I made is designed to feather the top grating layer down to near-zero at the edges.  When it comes time to install these gratings, I will create new hatch combings for them.


If anyone out there still has a spare set of complete gratings that they wouldn’t mind donating to the project, they will be put to good use here.  As always, I endeavor to either return or pay the favor forward.


All the best from Brooklyn,




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It seems as though the smallest of details have been taking the longest time to get in order.  The only benefit of the Pandemic has been time, and I have been using a lot of that time to create rudder hinges.


I thought I had done a better job of photographing this whole process, but I did not.  So, somewhat out of sequence, I will try to illustrate what I did.


The layout for the hinges is determined by the reasonable available spaces on the lower transom.  The best contemporary portraits and models I can find, show 3-4 hinges above the waterline.  Here is a picture that shows the layout I arrived at, albeit a little further along in the process:



What I failed to take pictures of was the marking out and making of pin impressions into the back of 3/64” wide styrene strip that make up the strap stock for the hinges.  The strips are first scored, but not cut through; because they remain attached to the bigger styrene sheet, it is much easier to make your pin impressions, while using a steel ruler as your guide for spacing.  Once you are satisfied with the outside appearance of nail heads, you can cut through the strip.  It’s a good idea to true the styrene sheet edge with a file, before making the next strip, as the pin impression process sometimes deforms the edge.


On the lower transom, these straps had to be applied in two segments to either side of the stern post; I couldn’t make a 90 degree bend without snapping the thin strap stock.  So short strap ends were first glued to the transom surface, taking care to round the ends into a pleasing shape.


The segment that joins the first and wraps around the stern post, toward the stern post centerline was eased around the corner after first filing a V-notch into the back of the strapping material.  Here’s a shot of that same process to the rudder head:



I then filed semi-circular accommodations, at the very center of the stern post for the gudgeons.  These were cut from 1/16” brass tubing that BLICK art supply sells as a bag of random odds and ends of mostly brass, but some aluminum.


While my execution of the following didn’t turn out absolutely perfectly, I thought the easiest way to make such small hinge knuckles would be the following.


Because it is what I had at hand, I ripped some red oak into a 1/16” veneer and a backing block.


I then drilled 1/16” holes in a straight line, through to the backing block.  Oak is not ideal for this because the open grain has a tendency to pull the bit off-track.  So, I drilled plenty of holes, until I had 6 that were satisfactory.  Maple or birch would be ideal.



I then inserted my brass tubing into a hole and used a DREMEL grinding wheel to cut just above the wood surface.


I then used a file to make them flush with the wood surface (hardwood a plus here), and uniform.  If I were to do it over again, I would ensure that I had definitely seated the brass rod against the wooden backer block before trimming; as it happens, what I used for the middle hinge knuckle was a shy 1/64” thinner than the others because the rod hung up in the hole, while filing.  I ended up using it, anyway, because I wasn’t going to insert a pintle into the middle knuckle.  Doing so would have made aligning the whole assembly unnecessarily complicated.  From the angle this detail could possibly be viewed, the small gap is invisible.


Making of the pintles should have been relatively straight-forward.  The basic plan was to cyano appropriate brass rod into two of the remaining three knuckle segments.  I could have made my life easier, if I had fitted the completed pintle assembly to the rudder head before applying the straps.  The reason I did not do that was because I wanted to be absolutely certain of where to mark and cut into the rudder for the pintle reliefs.  With the straps in place, though, I was compelled to bore-out circular openings for the pintles that would he housed by the straps.  Access for doing so is limited by the shape of the pintle reliefs.  I hope that makes sense.


Here are some pictures:



the rudder is actually somewhat functional; it’s port-to-starboard arc is restricted, somewhat, by the jaumier opening.  This is a static display model, however, so I am happy enough that everything lines up.


In other news, I’ve been experimenting with Liquitex Extra Heavy gel medium to brush in the tassel reliefs for the lambrequin carving:


Liquitex is definitely the right medium for this sort of very low relief, however, my current stable of brushes is not fine enough, or up to the task.  I will continue my experiments with other brushes.


Work on the gratings continues, and eventually Henry’s extras will complete the complement.


I also started to prepare the fore and main-mast, lower sections with reinforcing dowels that are drill-tapered to fit snuggly along their length:


Before tapering, above.  And after tapering, below:


I definitely want to use styrene adhesive to join the mast halves, but am currently unsure about whether to bed the dowels in the masts with some combination of epoxy and cyano, or one versus the other.  Any insight, here, would be greatly appreciated.


Once the lower masts are assembled, I can cut the lower main mast down a bit, to accommodate the diorama set-up, while also accounting for my desire to raise the main top by about 3/8” to 1/2”. Ultimately, this will make better sense of the stock kit topmast dimensions (which will be scratch-made from wood, anyway), and the extra height there, will be cut from the t’gallent masts which are too tall.  The main flagstaff, though, will be lengthened.


So, that’s where things stand for now.  I hope all are well and taking good care of themselves and family.  We will all get through this difficult time.  Thank God for the art and craft of ship modeling!



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Hi Marc - 


Really nice work on the rudder.  It will be almost overlooked in the finished diorama, but your dedication to detail will shine through to those who know.

I have had a lot of success painting with the tiny metal tools that fingernail painters use.  Not very expensive online.

I would go with the epoxy.  I find that cyano heats as it cures and could warp the plastic masts.  I think of epoxy as being more flexible too.


Be well - you and your entire family.  



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Hello Marc, 


thanks for your great work! I am still astonished by your wounderfull and accurate craftman's workship!!!



My own idea of building the SR, too gets faded more and more by any of the new pictures you do post... 😇



I think I'll take the 3rd Heller hull for ROYAL LOUIS 1666 and do await the next book of Rickenbacher to get the detailling.



And the 2nd hull will be invested in the DAUPHIN ROYAL. 



There ist without these light top framing nice braid


FLEURON 1688 (56guns) no guideline for the frise design in the official-approved-decoration-three-view-drawings (typical German way of linking words together, sorry) so far I looked around:




these place was empty - was it the space for the captains privatly payed personal decor of his own taste? (I do remember s. th. like this in the Greorgian RN.) 



And last but not least my intention to write here... 

...there is one question I don't think I will do a home-run with this but it is important for ALL of us in here:


Till when the inside planking of the battleststion was painted red? 


We all know it was done due to camouflage the horror of blood in a sea beattle aboard - and sothere is only one question: What was the coulor before?

Did we have got any colour pigments surviving inside the hull of VASA?


At SAINT PHILIPPE in the Ancre calendar of 2019 it is painted red... 



But for the French side I found in the Monographie of Commissar Huet of ROYAL LOUIS 1666 only a "light grey" - but it was the colour for the admirals accommodation - but no idea what the battelstations inside was painted in. Did you pass aside this important information duiring your literature journies in the Baroque world? 



I figured out this picture in DU BOIS DONT ON FAIT LES VAISSEAUX.  BOIS ET MARINE. 1650-1850 but the red inside if the gunport lids does (in my point of view) only corresponding to the red an "gold" decoration on the UP's frieze not any evident proof of some completly redly painted inside of the gun decks, isn't it? 


Thanks for your intrest - and please do not feel pressed to start to demolish the hole hull in a Dafi and beyond VICTORY manner to change the inner wall's colour!!! 





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Hello Chris!  Thank you for some interesting drafts that I haven’t seen before - particularly Le Fleuron.  The upper finishing of the bottle, there, only reinforces my resolve that this is the correct quarter gallery for 1689.


To answer your question, I don’t have any definitive answer to the painting of the battle stations in red.  I can only suppose that the inner painting of the port lids is a broader indication of the color in use.




If not red, then white would make some practical sense in that it would bring reflective light to the ‘tween decks, where it is needed most.


Druxey, yes the Liquitex is an acrylic medium, so it should behave as you say.


Thank you, Dan, and Mark for your kind compliments and thank you to all for looking in.


Mast work continues.  The lower fore and main masts are good and strong now, and rounding into shape.   More to follow...

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Asyou like her so much heee the full set of three drawings of



1688 with some very distinguished Arcanthus leaves in beautiful shape - but for the start the top of the bottle en details:Polish_20200325_193638944.jpg.b5c115fb23a2fe08e9244af2f2058c2c.jpg

Her the tripple of the decoration drawings: 


The transom



The side gallery 


The gallion


Now some further details of the decor:


The simply half circeled Couronnament with with very useable 



And now the floral shape of wood in its finest way to be:




Hope this helps for the non state room's inner decoration and some the unknown decoration at breakheaswalls &c. so it is "some contemporary stuff" on and surrounding it. ;)



Thanks for the interesting new pictures. 


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Hello ! I read in every document that the red color was to hide the blood. So red was the color for every planking inside the ship, except for the commander's apartments that were light grey. In fact, red ocher and yellow ocher were quite cheap so they were largely used on the ships. Vermilion red was very expensive and used only for some decorative parts, blue was also very expensive. For the ornaments, gold was of course very expensive but usual at the XVIIe century. At the XVIIIe century one can see much less gold, except for the prestigious ships. As a general rule, you can say that a ship with a royal name had his ornaments covered with gold, and a ship with a qualifier (Ambitieux, Terrible, Temeraire...) or a mythological name had his ornaments painted with napoli yellow.


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Dear Marc,


here one often forgotten feature, one not even implemented in the Heller kit - the pair of galleys  and the bread oven:


Here the the Bread Oven - lacking a chimney or using the lattice above? 

But there is not lattice above:


And why is the united legs of the cable bitts suddenly disapeared??? 


So but more of intrest for us are the chimneys looking out of the deck behind the breakhead bulkhead - the ugly chimneys:


A second feaure prominent on the UD is the cannonball boxes with ist beautyful curved appearance (shown here in the LD) :IMG_26032020_143208_(1000_x_460_pixel).jpg.23e6d7f5fd9198f4824a52cd0a1964f1.jpg

Hopefully this might help you towards a drop of more practical realism in the ocean of decorational detailling you have got at all. 


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Yes, the question of the ship’s stoves is one that I’ve been turning over in my head.


On the St. Philippe, where there is no cover of a forecastle deck, it makes sense for the stoves to be placed on the middle, or weather deck.


As Soleil Royal is equipped with a forecastle deck, it would be appropriate to place the stoves higher, where they pose less danger to the ship, as a whole.


That being said - because SR’s forecastle deck is armed, it would not be possible to pierce the forecastle deck for a chimney, along the sides, because there would be a forecastle cannon above where the stove sits between two main deck guns.


So, it seems to me, the best placement for the stoves would be beneath the forecastle deck, but centered between the guns, and sharing one common chimney.


Now, whether the chimney should resemble the simple, open boxed construction that Lemineur shows, or a weather-shielded construction with a 90 degree bend, I can not say.


Presumably, if the exterior of the chimney is a wooden panel and frame, it would be lined with copper or iron.  Or, perhaps there is no wood in the construction, and it is all copper or iron.


Anyone with insight, here, would be greatly appreciated.

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Never-mind - I see, now, how Lemineur’s chimneys open forward, and not at the top:


Also, according to Lemineur the chimneys are copper lining within a wooden frame, and they can be removed before battle, with deck caps in their place to cover the holes.

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Hi Dan - this is one of two models made for the St. Philippe monograph.  It is a pretty good model, but not nearly as good as Jose Tussett’s fully rigged version.  It appears to me that they were in a rush to complete the admiralty model so that they could release the monograph in time for the Rochefort conference in 2018, where both models were on display.


This is just conjecture, on my part.  I don’t know whatever the story may have been, but there is plenty of evidence of a rushed job, despite the talents of this second modeler being plainly evident, otherwise.

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Those removable chimneys/funnels operated in reverse of those on fireships. In the latter, the small hatch covers were removed and the chimneys placed just before firing the ship. Their placement, unlike yours, was just under the shrouds!. And, of course, they didn't have hoods at the top.

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Yes, the dreaded fireship.  Can you imagine the gruesome spectacle of the English fireship slowly drifting toward the beached and battle-scarred, but still magnificent Soleil Royal?


I continue to distract myself from the pandemic and my isolation from my family with work on the model.


As you know, I’ve been experimenting with Liquitex Extra Heavy Gel medium.  At first, I was trying to brush it in place, but I lack a fine enough brush, and all art stores are closed for the foreseeable future.


But then, I happened upon this build video on YouTube, and I was fascinated by his use of common toothpicks to paint in the fine statuary on this Revell 1:150 kit of the Vasa:

This inspired me to sharpen the end of a toothpick and try that as an application method.


First, I made up a piece of scrap that gave me the spacing I need for the tasseling:


The Liquitex is an interesting product.  It has the consistency of thick moisturizing cream, and I found that the dime-sized dollops that I would dole-out onto a paper towel, would skin-over within a few minutes.  It was necessary to “stir” the dollop every few minutes, in order to apply the product with ease.  After a few stirrings, a new dollop would be necessary, but there is an entire lifetime of product in one small jar, so it is not a big deal.


What I was aiming for was a sort of Hershey Kiss, triangular shape.  I found that three applications gave enough depth of relief that I will not have trouble picking the tassels out with a brush, or maybe a toothpick 🙃


I found that the cured gel medium could be scraped away from my sample strip, without too much effort, using your finger nail.  The counter area on the model, however, is more coarsely sanded and should provide a better mechanical bond.  That being said, I will probably paint over the finished tassels with thin cyano, just for the added insurance that provides.  I am sure the eventual paint film would he sufficient, but this cyano treatment is fast becoming part of my process.


So, at this stage, I became free to focus on building up the lower gun deck.  Before I can do that, I needed to cut the lower main mast to height, and create a boxed footing for the mast.


I also wanted to mock up, and then make the larger diameter main top, in order to get a sense for what the slightly increased height above deck needs to be.


If you are new to this log and wondering why I am increasing the main top diameter, I will ask you to consider that my addition of 5/8” to the breadth of the hull makes the stock tops seem even more in-adequate than they were to begin with.  The other consideration is that I hope to improve the spread of the topmast shrouds; on the stock kit, the slope is negligible.


I began by drawing a few different diameters onto a scrap of cardboard:


The stock main top is 2 3/16”.  As you see, I went up from there to 2 5/8”.   Then, I took each size and placed them on the stock cross trees:


Then, 2 1/2”:


Then, 2 5/8”:


This may seem to be a big jump in diameter, but not so much when you consider the height of the masthead, above the top, and the scale of the cheeks, supporting it.


Now, I know that purists may be appalled that I am not referencing known tables for correct dimensions relative to the height and breadth of the main mast, etc and so forth.  On this go-around, though, that is not the kind of rigidly accurate model that I am building.


In many ways, this is an artistic and impressionistic model, in which I am trusting my eye and sense for the proportion of these things to arrive at a better overall impression.  With specific regard to the tops, what I am going for is what you see in this Puget portrait of what I believe is the Royal Louis of 1692:


Ultimately, I decided to go ahead and pattern the largest top in styrene.  The tops are not difficult to make, but they present an opportunity to incorporate a wealth of detail that is missing from the stock tops.


My first attempt at laying out the ribs wasn’t quite right, though:


On the right, you can see that the rib layout is slightly off-center; there should be a rib radiating from each corner of the lubber hole.  Rather than expend all of that effort to carefully make and glue all of those ribs to a wrong layout, I decided to just make a new top (on the left)


Each top will have a lower, base layer of thinner styrene, that is of a slightly smaller diameter than the main layer.


The main layer is of 1/16” styrene. I’ll have to rip strip stock from 1/32” styrene sheet for the ribs, and I would like to use 1/2-round moulding for the banding that runs around the perimeter of the ribs.


I will also, eventually, make a lantern for the main top, but I haven’t figured out how I want to approach that, just yet.


So, here is the top as it stands, now, with the lower and main layers glued together, as well as the rib and planking lines engraved into the plastic:


For a sense of scale, here is the top at the main deck level:

And here is the top on the masthead:


So, next, I was attempting to determine what the new height above the main deck should be.

On the stock main mast, there is a subtle transition where the mast tapers from it’s widest diameter to the narrowing of its foot.  That place is where my thumb is in the picture above.


I was considering a 1/4”, 3/8” or 1/2” increase in height above the main deck.


using a straight edge, spanning the main deck ledges (clamps), in the location of the main mast, I determined that there was 2 3/8” to account for from the top of the deck to the plinth base if the model.  This dimension includes both the thickness of the deck material, and the camber at the ship’s centerline.


So, to begin with, I measured a 1/2” below where the mast tapers down to its footing, and then I measured down a further 2 3/8” from there.  This was to be my first cut-down.


I attempted to account for the rake of the mast top in my cut of the footing.  I also placed the starboard upper bulwark, so that I could get a truer sense of proportion:


I liked this.  This looked good to my eye.  I decided, though, to cut down an additional 1/8”, and I will explain why in a moment.  Here’s what 3/8” looks like in better light, after the second cut:



This is what my main mast height will be, and I will use this dimension to establish the relative heights of the fore and mizzen mast tops.


Now, here is why I cut a little further.  Bear in mind that I love the comedian Patton Oswalt, and I have recently discovered that Siri will play any stand-up I can think of in an endless loop, almost without repeats; this really helps me keep my mind off of the dreariness of what-all is going on.


I was listening to Patton and laughing away, as I distractedly taped off my first cut.  Unfortunately, I was a little past halfway through the mast when I realized that I had taped off the location where the mast rises above the deck, and not the footing! 🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️

Well, that is a BUMMER!  I was so angry with myself for falling asleep at the saw, so to speak.  I didn’t cut completely through the dowel, on the inside; there is maybe a 1/3 of that diameter still intact.


My initial solution was to pack the kerf with medium viscosity cyano and then fill the kerf with perfectly mating styrene sheet.  After trimming and fairing the surface, the repair looks well enough.  It will be un-detectable, anyway, because it will now sit below the deck surface (the reason for that extra 1/8” cut), and the repair seems strong:


Me being me, though, I wish to ensure that it is extra strong.  My first thought was to attempt to drill up through the end of the birch dowel, and into the repaired area, so that I could epoxy in a length of either 3/32” or 1/8” brass tubing:


I am skeptical, though, that even if I work through a progression of bits - that I will be able to keep a drill bit on-track through that expanse of end-grain.


My woodworking background, on the other hand, has given me another, I think, safer idea.  Much as you would to stop an end-check in a solid wood table top, for example, I can let-in a key (maybe dovetail, but considering the size, probably not) that crosses the repaired kerf.  The goal is to get deep enough in the dowel to increase glueing surface area and unify the whole construction:


This 1/8” styrene extrusion should be up to the task, and it matches my smallest woodworking chisel.  A half inch above and below the kerf will be more than enough, and my repair will never be in danger of failing.  If I don’t do a perfect job of inletting, the gel cyano will pick up the slack, and this reinforcement will also be undetectable.


So, a Dremeling we will go!  And with much greater care, this time 😉

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It’s a little annoying that I spent all of today’s allotted model time fixing this problem, but I am happy enough with the outcome, and have restored faith in the integrity of the mast:


The dowel, in this section, apparently favored the un-cut half of the mast, so it appears that about half the dowel was still intact.



Thanks for looking in😁

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I thought that medicinal scotch was shielding me from the Corona virus.  Apparently, not even scotch is strong enough to keep it away.  So, I am at home full-time, now, for at least the next two weeks.  I am very lucky that the worst of it seems to have been fever and body aches although, interestingly, I did lose my sense of smell.


And, so, work on Soleil Royal continues, more or less full-time now.


Thanks to Henry, I was able to finish modifying my gratings.  Here’s a shot of the new cambered gratings as compared with the stock, flat gratings:


I will be making new combings for these when it comes time to install them.


I also wanted to finish detailing the fore and main masts.  One of the peculiarities of the Heller kit is this groove that they let into the masthead, for the shrouds to pass over.  It is unnecessary, though, and creates a weak-point in the mast.  Borrowing a page from Dafi’s Victory log, I decided to fill it in with a strip of thin styrene and medium viscosity cyano:




Next, I wanted to file-in a tapered profile to the hounds, which are parallel-sided on the kit:


This alteration is more evident on the foremast, as seen above left.


Then, I could define the bibs as distinct from the hounds:


I added in the nailing of the hounds, and I also filed a slight taper to their aft edge, to give them a little extra shape:


Satisfied with the lower masts, I also wanted to complete my main top, just to get a sense of that process, since I need to make three more of them.

After marking out my ribs, and separating them into rough blanks, I used a simple two-step jig to cut the long, bottom edge to it’s still oversize width, and then the short top edge to height:


As a note for the future, I would be wise to really hone my 1” chisel back to a razor-edge, before doing this again.  The slightly dull edge caused the plastic to cleave, rather than cut cleanly, and I was left with many ribs that had skewed bottom edges.


In the next step, that necessitated filing them square before gluing them in place:


Finally, with the ribband strake circling the top, here are a few comparison shots with the stock main top:




My version is significantly bigger, but it will now give a better spread to the topmast shrouds.  And, here’s the top on the masthead:


All-in-all, this was a significant amount of work, but the improved scale and detailing make the process well worth it.  I can tweak the rib process a little to speed it up, so the others shouldn’t be as time-consuming.


Next, I boxed-in a footing for the main mast:



And, then I got to re-scribing the gun platforms to the inner hull.  As a reminder, I had taken the stock lower decks and separated each deck half into an inner and outer component.  This way I could re-cycle AND accommodate the increased width of the hull.



It was surprising to me just how much scribing I had to do to get a good fit against the hull.  Evidently, cutting away the lower hull relaxed what was left above, into a somewhat flatter-sided ship.


It wasn’t strictly necessary to achieve a close scribe, here, but I want maximum connection for extra strength and rigidity.


That’s all for today.  Thank you all for your likes and interest.  Stay safe, everyone.



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Marc - 


So sorry to hear that it got you, but glad you are not in the target population and should be OK.

Joyce and I send our best wishes and we will see you at the next club meeting, whenever it is.

Get well speedily and completely.


And stay away from me !!! 



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