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Yacht America by dcicero - Mamoli - Scale 1:66 - 1851

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An Eight Dollar Model


The footy model I've been puttering around with has been put on the shelf for a little while.  I've just lost enthusiasm for the project.  I'll probably get back to it at some point, though.


In September, I took the kids to a model and toy show at the DuPage County Fairgrounds (near Chicago).  This event happens twice a year and the kids always find things there:  action figures, models, other assorted plastic stuff...  There are almost never wooden ship models at this show.  It's all about plastic, and mostly cars and aircraft.


So I was walking down an aisle just browsing, trying to keep the kids in sight and saw this...




The guy in the booth, before I could say anything, said, "Give me eight bucks and it's yours."


I looked in the box.  Everything appeared to be there, including some tools and a book.  The wood alone was worth eight bucks.  I bought it.


When I got home, I found that, indeed, everything was there and the plans looked really good.  I decided to try to build the model instead of just scavenge model wood out of it.  Although I'd never considered building a model of the America, this kit has piqued my interest.






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The Building Board


Making a proper building board was the first order of business.  I had some 3/4" Baltic Birch plywood in the garage, which is really nice stuff.  I cut a piece on my table saw and drew a centerline on it.


I've learned through experience and from listening to other modelers that trusting the documentation -- particularly in European kits -- is a bad plan.  I looked at the only reference I had for the America, my 1935 copy of Howard I. Chappelle's The History of American Sailing Ships, which includes a few drawings and a good discussion of the vessel.




From the drawing I learned that she drew 6' forward and 11' aft.  To keep the waterline level during construction, the model would have to sit on an incline.  (At the time, I figured out the angle; I think it was 3°.)  But then I looked more closely at the plans.  This was not a case of simply cutting and incline.  The keel sweeps gently from stern to stem.  I would have to cut that curve to have the model sit on the building board.


That's what I did.  I copied the plans and pasted them -- using spray adhesive -- to a piece of plywood...




... and then cut the curve on my bandsaw.  Here's the result.




I mounted the keel support on the building board.  I left the rudder (or part of it) in place.  The central former includes the stern post, but not the rudder, so when the time comes to swing the rudder, I'll remove that little piece.  In the meantime, that's where the stern post will sit.


Once that was done, I installed some thin, square stock on either side of the central former.  One problem with this kit:  everything is warped.  The central former is significantly out of true and I could tell right away it was going to take some work to get it back to where it needs to be.  I know that, as I build, I'll need to move, and eventually remove, those strips, but everything's put together with white glue, so that can be easily done.




Note the daylight between the central former and the keel support.  (The photo was taken before the square stock was installed.)  This is a discrepancy between the plans and the kit components.


More to come on that.













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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Dave,


I've got the same kit but don't plan to build for a year or so, so I'll be following your progress with great interest. Also, FYI, my central former is also significantly warped. Maybe the curve introduced by this warpage was the real secret to the yacht's success!!!! (Just kidding.). Are you planning to try and remove the warp or cut a new piece?


Dave M.

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Glad you asked, Dave.  The warp in the central former has compelled me to take another approach to this model.


Bearding Line, Rabbet and Bulkheads


With my building board complete, it was time to start on the bulkheads and the inner structure of the model.  I cut a bearding line and a rabbet to accept the garboard strake.  On this model, the stern post, false keel and stem posts are all integral to the central former.  They're not separate parts as on other models.  This means getting the bearding line and rabbet cut has to be done carefully.  The kit instructions say the second layer of planking is to be installed over these timbers -- which makes sense -- but if you don't locate them before the first planking goes on, that'd be difficult to do later.


Here's the bearding line laid out.




I used my Dremel to carve down to the stern post and keel.  I neglected to take a picture of that, but the intent is to give a gentle taper into which the planking fits.


Then it was time to test all the bulkheads for trueness.  Honestly, I hate this job.  Boring.  Time-consuming.  Tedious.  And most of the time, the frames are pretty close to alright.  Frank Mastini's Ship Modeling Simplified -- which I recommend -- makes a big deal out of this.  It's good advice and, although it wasn't much fun, I did it.


Mastini's procedure is to draw out an outline, cut it out, fold it in half and locate the centerline and then shim or cut away as needed to produce a true bulkhead.




I installed them.


Warped Keel


To get the warp out of the keel I installed some braces betwen the frames . The braces were equal in length and should have, I thought, brought the keel into true.  (Here's a picture of some of the braces in place.)




But it didn't.  Even with all that bracing, the keel was still warped.






At that point, I figured it was going to be more work to fix this than to simply make a new one and, as long as I was at it, I might as well make some new bulkheads too.


This has turned into a scratch building project now.






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Hi Dan,


You got yourself a great deal on the kit!  I'll be watching with interest, as I also have this kit in my closet for a future project. As for the keel,  I'd probably buy a piece of plywood and cut a new piece, that way it would be good and flat.  It might be quite difficult to straighten out the piece you have now.  Be careful when cutting the slots on the new piece for the bulkheads because you don't want them to have too much play.  The bulkheads should fit snug.  


Best of luck with the build,



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The blocks between the bulkheads are very tight and they're identical, port and starboard.  I thought that was going to fix the warpage, but no luck.  America's deadwood was pretty substantial.  The after bulkheads end a long way from the keel.  Most of the warpage is there.  And it's not warpage in one direction, either.  Port and starboard is easy to fix, at least amidships, but there's also warpage from keel to deck and there's no way to really get at that.


I considered cutting a new central former from new plywood and using the existing bulkheads, but, honestly, there isn't that much difference in terms of the amount of work involved, to use the Chappelle plans as the template for the new former.  The kit former is pretty close, but it's not perfect, so why duplicate the "pretty close" and have to rework it?  I also got the HAMMS plans, but there's no scale indicated on those, so I'd have to do a little math to get them to the same scale as Chappelle's work.


And there are a couple of other things I'm thinking about.  I've been considering learning the CAD skills needed to create these model components.  Might be time to take that on.  And my local library has a "Maker's Space" that has a laser cutter.  If I can provide them with the drawings, they might be able to cut the parts for me.  I need to do a little research on that, but that, it seems to me, would be an idea solution.





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