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USS Saginaw by catopower - 1/8" scale paddlewheel gunboat, 1859, first ship built at Mare Island - finished

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My old build log is gone, but progress on the model continues. So, it's time to get the log going again.



A Brief History


The Saginaw was the first ship built at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on San Francisco Bay. She was launched in 1859 as the USS Toucey, in honor of the then Secretary of the Navy, but was commissioned as the USS Saginaw. The last paddlewheel steamer built before the American Civil War, she was specifically ordered for use in the shallow waters of the China station where she operated until she returned home to be refit and relaunched in 1863.

She served in the Pacific Squadron during the Civil War, being on the alert for Confederate activities and for the Confederate raider Shenandoah, whose captain, James Waddell had originally served aboard the Saginaw as one of her officers.

Among other activities, the ship charted the coastal waters of the newly acquired Alaska Territory in 1868. In 1869, after the US Army's run in with the Tlingit Indians (apparently following several incidents over the years), she was ordered to destroy three evacuated villages on an island near what is now Saginaw Bay.

On October 29, 1870, following the support of dredging operations at Midway Island, she was returning to San Francisco by way of the rarely visited Ocean Island, where she went to check for stranded sailors. She arrived ahead of schedule, but struck a reef in the process, which doomed the ship. 

While her hull was pounded by breakers, her crew abandoned the ship, taking as many supplies as possible, and went ashore on the desert island. In mid-November, one of the ship's boats was built up and a small group of volunteers sailed for 31 days and 1500 miles to the Hawaiian islands. Sadly, in the breakers off Kauai, the boat overturned and only one member of the starving and weakened crew survived. As soon as his story was relayed to authorities, the king of Hawaii dispatched a steamer to rescue the stranded crew.

This model represents the ship shortly before she was lost in 1870. At that time, she was equipped with two 30-pdr parrot rifles on pivot mounts, four 24-pdr boat guns, and I managed to discover from Mare Island logs in the National Archives that she also carried a light 12-pdr gun, though the mount is unspecified.

While she was originally rigged as a fore topsail schooner, which is illustrated in the plans in the National Archives, I believe she was probably rigged with topsails on both masts by 1870. This is how she appears in the only known photo of her and I believe this is from later in her career, as I found one reference indicating that for at least one year late in 1860s, she operated almost exclusively under sail. I would tend to suspect that this was during a period when she was a little more heavily rigged. 

There are several other small structural changes between her original 1859 configuration and that following her 1863 refit. These include the removal of her original pilot house, the rearrangement of her boilers, coal bunkers and forward hold, a change in the appearance of her decorative work on the wheel houses, and the relocation of some of the deck hatches.



The Model and Initial Research


The model is being built at 1/8" scale (1:96) as plank on solid hull construction. The solid hull is built up from basswood lifts and is planked over using holly. Keel, stern and stem posts are beech and the deck planking is boxwood. This is actually a prototype model that I'm using to work out various details since Civil War period ships are somewhat out of my area of knowledge. So too are steamers and, in particular, paddle wheel ships. My plan is to build a larger version, probably at 3/16" scale (1:64), though I expect that I'll probably build that as plank on bulkhead.


I was originally inspired by a photo of a custom Saginaw model that BlueJacket built for a client. I've always been somewhat intrigued by the ships of the sail and steam transition and then some simple online research turned up the fact that the Saginaw was the first ship built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which is just about a 30 minute drive from where I live. 


My normal suppliers for ship plans showed no sign of Saginaw plans, so inquired with BlueJacket about their source.

But, when I asked about the plans, they told me that because their efforts were funded by their client that they couldn't share any information with me. After a while, I sent an email to one of the librarians at the J Porter Shaw Library at the San Francisco Maritime National Park. My main contact there is always very helpful and she again showed her worth when she did some searching and found that copies of the National Archives plans were available from Maryland Silver Company.


I ordered these plans without delay and, while I was waiting for those, began researching what I could. I discovered that a book had been written about the Saginaw called A Civil War Gunboat in Pacific Waters: Life Aboard the USS Saginaw, but it's an expensive one, and the local library's inter-library loan system had no access to it either. I discovered that there was a copy at the UC Berkeley library, but that is a real pain to use unless you are a student or faculty. 


But, fortune was smiling on the project and it turned out that the author of the book, Hans Konrad Van Tilburg, had done some of his research at the Vallejo Museum and gave them a copy of the book. So, a trip to their research library gave me access to this and some other records on the Saginaw. Though it was a pricey book at about $70, I found that it had enough information in it that I was compelled to buy a copy. 


In the meantime, the plans from Maryland Silver Company arrived and I had also discovered that there was an article in the Nautical Research Journal regarding the construction of the Saginaw and that I had it in their back issues CD.







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Thanks John, Grant.


It's a bit of a brain stretch to go back and review the issues I had at the start of the build, but it's also kind of nice to revisit it. There's a lot I need to look at again to rebuild my analysis (reprogram my brain really), so it may be slow going at least at the start.



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  • 2 weeks later...

A Snapshot of the Saginaw


The model I’m building will show Saginaw as I believe she appeared shortly before her loss in 1870. I’m basing her appearance on the 1863 plans, which show different style of wheelhouse decoration and no pilot house. Her deck arrangement had also changed slightly from her original 1859 plans. Her armament will consist of a pair of 30-pdr parrot rifles on pivot mounts, one foreward and one aft, four 24-pdr boat guns broadside, and a single 12-pdr (L) boat gun, probably on a portable two-wheel carriage mount lashed to the deck.


The armament decisions were initially based on an article titled “The Narrative of William Halford,” published in The Naval Institute Proceedings in July of 1935, and a survey of the wreckage done by a NOAA research team led by Hans Van Tilburg and described in his book. Further details were found in the 1870 “Armaments of US Vessels” of Mare Island, which I discovered on one of my research visits to the National Archives in San Francisco.


The rig on the model will be modified from that shown in the 1863 rigging plan to match the only known photo of the ship. While the photo is undated, I found a comment in Halford’s narrative that indicated that Saginaw operated mostly under sail in later years, and I think it’s reasonable that had her rig beefed up a little at this time.


I’ve also decided to build the Saginaw with a hurricane deck that spans the space between the wheel houses. These are not shown on any plans and BlueJacket didn’t build their model with one, but there is more than one reference to a hurricane deck in the book “The Last Cruise of the USS Saginaw” by George Reed, one of Saginaw’s officers at the time of her loss. I’ve also discussed this at length with a fellow ship modeler, who wrote two fine Ship’s in Scale articles on his models of similar paddlewheel gunboats and built both of these with hurricane decks.


Preparing the Drawings


After spending time sorting through the plans of the different configurations of the Saginaw, I settled on the waterlines and shear profile plans that I would use for the model. Carefully studying the text on the drawings, I’d determined this set to mostly likely be the original plans of the Saginaw.


Oddly enough, there was only one body plan included in all three sets of drawings, and it had only the aft stations labeled. The forward stations were drawn, but not labeled. So, I took some measurements and immediately ran into a problem. There were different station lines drawn on the different sets of plans, and some of the station lines in the body plan were not on waterlines and shear profile plans that I chose to use. This required me to draw in new station lines on my shear profile and waterlines plans. 




Saginaw body plan from 1859 drawings
Shear and waterlines plans from 1858 drawings.



Saginaw drawings from 1859 showing old wheelhouse cover and a pilot house.
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Starting the Hull


With the drawing done, I did some copy and paste work in Photoshop to make a full-hull waterlines plan. I made enough copies of this to cut patterns for each of the waterlines needed. I did the same thing with the body plan, making templates to check progress and accuracy when shaping the hull.


At 1/8” scale, the waterlines came out exactly 1/4” apart, so I bought some 1/4” basswood to use for the lifts that would make up the hull. 


From past experience, I found that it was handy to be able to pull the lifts apart when shaping the hull, so I drilled holes in the lifts before shaping them and held them together with wood screws. Another set of holes allowed my to screw the whole assembly down onto a building board marked with station lines.


The building board was extremely useful and allowed me to hold the hull very steady while carving and sanding, gave me a solid surface with clearly marked station lines for the proper alignment of the hull templates, and also made the whole thing easier to store. 


After the hull is shaped, drilling a couple holes in the bottom of the hull allows the hull to sit upright securely so I can more easily shape the deck.






One of my favorite aspects of solid hull modeling is to be able to sit outside and carve wood. Very relaxing.
Shaping the lifts


More shaping of lifts

Now attached right-side-up so I can shape the deck
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Thanks Michael and Mark!


I'm not sure what happend to the images on Post #5, but all I got were question marks where the photos were. So, I edited the post and re-attached the pics.


While I'm at it, I discovered a couple more photos of the earliest stages of the solid hull build. These illustrate the uncarved lifts marked and stacked on the building board. The one thing I've learned in building this way is to extend the lifts all the way to the end of the longest lift. This makes is simpler to make sure the ends are in perfect alignment.







I glue copies of the waterlines onto the wood using rubber cement. I can then remove these after the lift is cut to shape and alignment marks (station lines, center line) are drawn onto the wood. Before removing the paper, I also drill alignment holes for the screws which will be used to temporarily hold the lifts together while I'm working on them.



The lifts stacked up showing the rough shape of the hull. The station lines visible here are of course temporary and used to check that the lifts are properly aligned before the carving and sanding take place. 

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  • 1 month later...

Shaping the Hull



With the lifts cut, getting the final shape was pretty easy, and a relatively small amount of wood had to be removed. 


It’s important to note that the lines on these plans are drawn to the inside of the planking. If I was going to make this a straight solid hull model, I would have had to redraw all the lines of the plans. Fortunately for me, I like the looks of planks and I plank my solid hull models. So, this worked out really well.


Using the profile templates I made earlier, I regularly checked my work and started on the hull by carving away most of the extra wood. Carving saved myself a lot of extra sanding, but required a bit of care so as not to cut away too much, which is very easy to do. Of course, that’s what wood filler is for, so a mistake here isn’t the end of the world.


The hardest areas to carve are the concave areas of the hull up under the stern. Since the hull lifts were held together with screws, it was possible to separate them, and this made it easier to access those hollows.


Also, if you look at my photos, you might note that the upper most lift has been omitted. I didn’t add this piece in until the rest of the hull was pretty much cut to shape. The main reason was to allow easier shaping of the hollow under the stern.


You may also notice from the photos that the ends of the hull look squared off. I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep lifts properly aligned, getting a good straight line for the keel and stern and stem posts, if I made all the lifts the same length. So, the shape of each lift was extended. Once all the other shaping was done, I used another profile template to shape the stern and stem posts.


The last thing I did was to measure the shear of the deck and mark the upper most lift to the height of the centerline of the deck, minus the planking – Since I planned to use 1/32” thick deck planks, I made sure to allow for that. 


A bench top belt sander made quick work of the deck shear, but it’s important to slow down when getting anywhere close to the shear line so as not to cut away too much. Once the deck shear is cut, the deck camber can be added. I added this by simply drawing the height of the deck at the edge on both sides of the hull. Then, I cut a curved piece of wood the shape of the camber as a guide and sanded the deck carefully to match the guide.


With that, the basic hull shape was essentially done and pretty much what you would get if you went out and purchased a solid hull ship model kit (minus all the plans and fittings, of course).








Some of the station profile templates I made
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Thanks Bill.


Now that my rigging work on the San Felipe is basically done, I have time to get back my own projects. It's taken me a while to get rolling again, but now that I'm working on them, it feels really good.



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Interior Diversion


One of the features I’ve always enjoyed adding is having an open hatch or companionway, or being able to see down through a skylight. I often try to just cut open a little area under a hatch to allow a ladder and then I just blacken the interior so you can’t easily see that it’s just a hole. But, if I sit and stare at the model long enough, I start to think about doing more. And, since I have the interior deck details of the Saginaw, I figured I’d add just enough detail to make your mind’s eye imagine there is a whole world of details hidden away.


Unfortunately, I don’t usually get these ideas until AFTER the lifts are all glued together. It could be so much easier if I had thought of the idea sooner. But, it is what it is. So, using a chisel and gouges, I cut open two large areas. One of them is the crew space aft of the foremast, and the other is the officers wardroom and captain’s cabin aft of the mainmast. I wasn’t planning on doing anything extremely elaborate – just add enough detail to make the observer curious. 


Cutting out the areas on a lift model is actually not so bad. The wood tends to cut away  more easily along the layers of the lift boundaries, so it’s easy enough to get a flat floor, which helps if the lifts happen to be at the right depths. In this case they were, so that wasn’t so bad.


I cut pieces of 1/64” plywood that fit each of these spaces and planked them over with the same planks I was planning to use for the deck, which is 1/16” wide boxwood strips, 1/32” thick. At this scale, I decided to simply edge the planks with pencil. I didn’t worry about plank butts or treenails since this will be mostly hidden. However I did cut hatch outlines as needed and pencil marks were drawn in where interior partition were to be added.









After the openings were cut, I made covers of sheet basswood and fit them. Having chiseled out large sections of the old deck, I was actually able to use some of the removed pieces to fashion simple support beams that were already shaped to the deck camber. So, the sheet basswood covers took on the proper camber without much extra effort. It was only necessary to make sure that the covers seated properly and were perfectly flush with the deck. And, finally, I cut all the openings in the covers for the hatches and skylights.


I didn’t glue these down at this stage since there was still interior work to do.













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Hi Bob,


Also, if you simply ran out of coal, you were up a creek without a paddle(wheel)!


I find that there is a certain beauty in fallibility. A paddle steamer had to face possibility of running out of coal. When the winds were favorable, they could unship the paddles and save fuel and probably travel a lot faster. But, one thing I read a couple months ago that I'd never considered was that as a ship burned it's 100 tons of coal, it would sit higher in the water and the paddles too, making it less efficient over time.


I'm researching also the Japanese screw steamer Kanrin Maru and found that she only had enough coal aboard for 6 days of steaming, which effectively made her a sailing ship, but with a small auxiliary engine for steaming in and out of port. But, her lifting mechanism wouldn't pull the screw up out of the water far enough, causing drag and vibration when under sail.



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Interior Details



Since the model is only at 1/8” scale, a viewer would see very little of the interior when peeking through the hatches. After all the hatches are only 1/2” wide openings and they’re going to be partially blocked with ladders. So, I decided to keep actual interior details very simple. I would include no furniture, just some deck details, partition walls and a couple doors where appropriate.


The crew compartment was the simplest. I just basically built a box. On the floor, I added the hatch for the forward hold and chain locker and also the chain pipes. The aft wall was a little unusual. It separates the crew compartment from the coal bunkers and it has a recessed section in the center that leans away from the compartment at just the right angle to allow for a ladder. 


I built the aft partition, planked it with vertical strips and painted it and the other walls white. All except for the forward wall, which I painted black since is doesn’t represent an actual wall.









I don’t have any good pictures of them, but I made four beam support stanchions. In trying to figure out how to mount these, I found that it worked best to build them into the cover, cutting holes for the stanchions, which I made a little overly long, and then mounted in the holes. With the cover in place, the stanchions stuck out just a little, allowing me to glue them in place, filing off the excess that stuck up.






Here’s the most anyone will be able to see of the interior of this compartment.



The officer’s wardroom and the captain’s cabin were next. I don’t have much in the way of photos of that – even less than the crew compartment. But, this section was just a little more elaborate. I had to make two walls to divide this section up into the Captain’s cabin aft, the wardroom forward, and the ladder way that separates the two.





This section required the creation of a few doors. I made a pair of paneled doors that would be open to the weather and then made two slotted doors for the inside of the wardroom, though by the time the skylights are in place, no one will ever be able to see them. Still, I know they’re there. Also, half of the doors I left slightly ajar so that you could see or think you could that there was something beyond the door. 


For the Captain’s cabin, I didn’t have very much space and this area is quite small. So, I tried to use a little forced perspective on the aft wall of the cabin to try to make it look a little like it extended back farther than it actually does. I don’t know how well this will work or if it will actually matter since the only way to see in here will be through a small round skylight. Probably, you’ll see nothing more than the color of the walls and floor.






In any case, with these interiors done, I went ahead and glued down the covers and was ready to begin planking the deck. But first, I added the keel, stern and stem posts. Not too much to say about these. I’ve gotten into the habit of using beech wood since it’s very hard. I’ve dented too many keels, but haven’t had the problem since – or perhaps I’ve just learned to be more carful.







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Thanks John, Bill.





Hopefully this is one of those shows where there's actually a final episode   :)





You know... I think... it's just one long piece. At 1/8" scale, that's about 18" or 19". I didn't worry about the number of sections because it's going to get covered by copper sheathing anyway.



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Planking the Deck


Before laying the day down, I planned out the thickness of the bulwarks and how I was going to attach that to the hull. The plan was to notch the hull to add 1/16” thick basswood strips that would effectively act as “timber heads”. Inboard of the this, I’d need 1/32” for the inner bulwarks planking and another 1/32” for the waterways.


So, as a guide, I glued a 1/16” square basswood strip along the edge of the hull. Then, I laid down another 1/16” square piece as a temporary spacer. The nibbing strake was then cut and shaped to fit along the inner edge of this spacer and glued into place. Afterwards the spacer was removed.






In the meantime, I measured out the smoke stack and lower masts and drilled holes in the deck for their placement. For the smoke stack, in order to make installation simple, I figured on make an inner sleeve that will eventually be glued to the deck. The outer sleeve represents that actual smokestack. This inner sleeve is 15/16” in diameter and the temporary stack you see in some of these photos is actually this temporary sleeve, cut to the full height of the stack.


For the deck planking, I used 1/16” wide by 1/32” thick boxwood. I often add or simulate treenails, but at 1/8” scale, I decided not to do it this time. Planks were laid starting along the centerline. To simulate caulking, I simply edged the planks with pencil. The planks were nibbed at the bow and near the stern where appropriate.









Coaling Ports


There were six ringed circles on the main deck plan of the Saginaw that were unlabeled and it was at this time that I managed to get some help on MSW 1.0 to identify and understand the construction of what appeared to be coaling ports. 


These rings are 7/32” diameter in the plans and I decided to use a 3/16” diameter brass rod inserted in a 7/32” diameter brass tube. I’d cut some little buttons from the these to represent the port covers. The brass was straight off the shelf from the K & S metals stand at the hardware store. It turned out that these particular sizes were readily available and fit perfectly. The same was true of 1/2” brass tube and 15/32” brass tube that I would use for the smoke stack.






7/32” holes were then drilled into the deck for the six coaling ports. It wasn’t until a little later that I saw a photo of an actual coaling port and noticed the deck work around it. So, I ended up modifying the openings to allow for the deck work. In hindsight, I realize that adding this detail creates a certain inconsistency since I did not do the same for other features where it might have been appropriate.










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Building up the Bulwarks


The bulwarks on the Saginaw will be planked inside and out, so all I needed to do was to create a core to plank over. There are a couple ways this might have been done. It might have been possible to cut a sheet of wood to shape and glue it along the edge of the deck; It might have been possible to install timberheads similar to a real ship. I chose something sort of in between. 






Starting with 1/4” wide strips of 1/16” thick basswood, I notched recesses into the hull at key points along the edge of the deck. These were cut 1/4” wide and 1/16” deep so that these wood strips would fit flush with the hull. The strips were cut so that they would stick up just about 1/2” above the deck and they were laid in to follow the proper shape of the hull profile. I started with about a half-dozen of these and positioned them at points where they could best support the shape of the bulwarks. 






Once these were in place, I took a long strip of wood and clipped it to these false timber heads. I could see where the bulwarks shape needed more support and added more of these timber heads there, and continued this process until about 22 of them were in place. That seemed enough to support a nice shape.


I then started adding filler pieces 1/16” thick that fit in between the timberheads, not really caring how big the pieces were or how many would be needed. Appearance didn’t matter, just the overall shape. These pieces were not notched into the hull, but just glued in along the edge. Initially, it wasn’t a very pretty sight, but it was functional. 


After a bit of sanding, I applied the outer bulwarks planking starting from the sheer molding and planking upwards. The planks consisted of 1/16” wide strips, 1/32” thick. I used Holly for all the hull planking. Holly is a bit on the expensive side, but is so easy to work with, is very easy to bend when dampened, and sands very cleanly.


When I applied these planks, I lightly sanded the edges to give the planks better definition when painted over.




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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Hi All, 


Thanks for the birthday wishes last week. Much appreciated! 


June is a very busy month this year due to three Japanese music and dance performances I was involved in. Though I'm not a dancer, my knees definitely felt their age from 4 long evenings of rehearsals and just being on my feet way too much. Good to sit down and do a bit of blogging and ship modeling again!


Haven't done much on the Saginaw what with the problems I'm having with my brass etching experiments. But more on that later...




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Hull Planking



The next step in the Saginaw’s construction was to plank the hull. The thing I like about building a solid hull first is that you can spend time getting the shape of the hull as accurate and as perfect as you can, before planking it. When planking, you don’t end up introducing flat spots or bumps since you have the fully supporting hull, you just focus and getting a nice smooth run to the planks.


Getting a smooth run of planking is extremely easy when you’re working with a hull like that of the Saginaw. It’s long and narrow and has a nice sharp bow. Planks require only a small amount of shaping. Anyway, the hull is going to be coppered below the water line and as long as the upper hull planking is good, the lower planks can bear the brunt of mistakes since they’ll be covered.









As I mentioned last time, for planking material, I used holly, most of which I milled myself from a board I bought from The Lumberyard a while back. I cut into sheets on my large table saw, thickness sanded them on my Micromark thickness sander, then cut strips off the boards on the an old Jarmac table saw. Since the Jarmac is pretty old and has a lot of vibration now, I had to then take the strips and run them through a thicknessing setup I made from an AcraMill (This was all during my pre-Byrnes Machines saw days). This is just to even out the thickness of the planks since some variation is introduced from cutting the old Jarmac saw.


Again, before gluing planks on, I would give each a light sanding to round the edges slightly to make them stand well when painted over.







Note that the inner bulwarks have been planked and the broadside gun ports have been cut.

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More Research



Researching a subject is really one of my very favorite aspects of ship modeling, or in particular, scratch modeling. It’s all about the quest for the facts, the sense of discovery, the feeling that you’re winding a path that few, if any, others may have taken. In this case, I know others have been on this path before and I’m happy to be tracing another’s footsteps. But the feeling of exploration is still there. 


When I visited the National Archives and talked to the archivists there or when I visited the Vallejo Museum and talked to the Director there, we talk about Mr. Van Tilburg and his visit. But, the information he was looking for wasn’t necessarily the kinds of details I need as a ship modeler. So, I continued to spend hours digging through what resources I could find.


There were still a lot of questions about the Saginaw and a lot of confusion about conflicting information on things like her armament, location of the ship’s wheel, how her gun ports were arranged, the construction of round skylights, the question of a hurricane deck, etc.


I’d found Conald Canney’s book The Old Steam Navy, Volume I: Frigates, Sloops, and Gunboats, 1815-1885. This was interesting and had some information about the Saginaw, but it kind of confused matters. In it, Canney lists the following armament:


1 50-pdr Dahlgren rifle

1 32-pdr gun

2 24-pdr rifles


The original armament described in the building specifications, which were published in a Nautical Research Journal article by J.R. McCleary were:


1 32-pdr gun

2 24-pdr boat guns


In an interview of William Halford published in the Naval Institute Proceedings in 1935, he specifically mention the main armament on the Saginaw was made up of two Parrot rifles.


Van Tilburg also mentions this armament in his book. Then, in my research at the regional office of the National Archives in San Bruno, CA, I found an 1869 record of armaments of US Navy Vessels stationed at Mare Island. The Saginaw’s guns are listed as


2 30-pdr parrot rifles

4 24-pdr 

1 12-pdr L


It’s quite possible that these are all correct, showing the changes to the Saginaw’s armament over her short career.


Summing up, then, Saginaw was originally built for the China Station, armed with a single 32-pdr pivot gun, forward, and two 24-pdr boat guns broadside, probably aft of the wheel houses.


Upon her refit, which took place during the Civil War, she was up-gunned. Her 32-pdr gun was moved to a new pivot location at the stern and a new, larger, 50-pdr Dahlgren was added at the forward pivot mount.


Sometime later, after the war perhaps, her pivot guns were replaced with 30-pdr Parrot Rifles. This effectively simplified the ammunition supply, though there is no evidence that this was the reason for the change. The 12-pdr L likely refers to a light version of the 12-pdr boat gun. Since there is no gun port for it, I am assuming it was probably on a land-based carriage mount for use on shore. This can be seen in some Civil War era photos of other ships, and ship modeler William Emerson did a good job of illustrating this on his model of the Civil War gunboat Water Witch that appeared in Seaways’ Ships in Scale in 2005.


Since I have decided to build my model as depicting the Saginaw before her loss in 1870, this last configuration will appear on the model.

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Hull Details


At this point, port holes were added. I wasn’t originally sure how these were built at this time, but since the detail is a small one, I decided to simply drill 1/8” holes for them and line them with thin-walled brass tubing. This was to make sure they were perfectly round.


In actuality, on the wooden hull of the Saginaw, the metal frame would have been fastened to the inboard side of the planking, so on the outside all you would see is a hole with glass behind it. So, when the hull is painted, I’ll be painting the brass sleeves as well, so they won’t stand out too much.


At this stage, I hadn’t decided on how to make the glass, but for the time being, all I needed to do was drill out the port holes.


In addition to the port holes, I also cut openings for the pivot guns. The forward pivot ports were an easy call as they appear on the plans and the only photo of the Saginaw clearly shows them. However, the aft pivot gun ports was a bit of an issue. 


The plans give no clear distinction of how the stern gun ports were configured. My best guess was that they were simply drop down panels that allowed the aft pivot gun to fire broadside. One question was whether or not this ship would have had drop down panels all the way around the stern like the double-ended gunboats of the Civil War. My thinking was probably less clear that it is now, but I figured that since she was built for service accoss the Pacific, she might need to have stronger stern bulwarks to resist the waves of following seas. So, I decided to limit the drop down panels to the sides of the ship.


The main rail was added next, made from boxwood, but a hammock rail would go on top of this later. Boxwood channels were attached and, finally, I fashioned trail boards, again out of boxwood, and drilled out the hawse pipes.






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