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Prince de Neufchatel versus US Brig Syren


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I'm in the happy situation of having both of these kits now.  Both are from Model Shipways: the Syren kit just purchased from Model Expo and the PdN  a kit purchased from an estate sale.  The PdN kit has laser cut bulkheads so I'm guessing it is not terribly old (copyright date on the kit is 1994).


I'm a newbie who started last November and am working through 3 builds at the moment gaining some experience and (hopefully) skill as I do.  I've promised myself I won't start either of these until I have at least one of the existing build completed but I hope that will happen over the next month.


The ships are similar and of the same period. Whichever I build first will certainly help prepare me for the second! With the kits I note that scale may not be very correct.  For example, the PdN's armament was 12 lb carronades while the Syren 's was 24lb carronades.  The parts from the kits are:



while the long guns on each ship are:





Which one to build first???


Syren pro:  

Extensive illustrated instructions. (130 page manual with lots of good photos also online)

Several completed and current buildlogs.


Syren con:

Some are saying the bulkheads are a bit delicate

The fittings are and wood are not as high quality as the PdN (e.g. Britannia castings for carronades, figurehead)

Expense to upgrade fittings adds quite a bit to overall price.


PdN pro:

Better quality fittings (e.g brass carronades)) and wood (including some nice walnut strips for planking, wales etc etc)

Reasonably detailed instruction manual (30 pages with good diagrams and ok photos)

Phillip Reed book uses PdN for his Illustrated Masterclass


PdN cons:

Fewer buildlogs for comparison and advice


Would you care to weigh in on the pros and cons or offer any advice?  I'm not going to anguish over this decision but would love to hear your thoughts.



Syren - by _SaID_




Prince de Neufchatel - by jwvolz




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PdN was a real ship and her lines taken off by the Admiralty after her capture, so that is pretty accurate.  There is a good set of plans (Smithsonian?) around so you can check the kit against them.

Don't know the derivation of Syren info.

Neither guns nor carronades look good to my eye, wood quality is not a real issue.  You can look around, Bluejacket and Caldercraft both offer castings to replace the lower quality of a kit's offerings.  Gun/carronade barrels you need only the size of shot and/or barrel length to order replacements.  Wood is usually replaced or supplemented in any case.  Either of these vessels will be a long-term project, don't begrudge yourself a few dollars to improve things a bit.

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Well, clearly I've built the PDN, photo above...



The kit is generally good. I took some liberties with the carronades in terms of the carriages, and I added some extra details based of the original plans, as well as ship's boats. As you found the instructions are not nearly as good as what Chuck wrote for Syren, and Syren is a newer more comprehensive kit, but not everyone has been pleased with Model Expo's execution of some parts (carronades, quarter badges). There are obviously far more Syren build logs to learn from and ask questions of the builders. The PDN has a little easier rig if that's an issue.


I think it's a coin flip. Either way, you'll get a ton of help on here if needed. At the end of the day technique is the same no matter the kit. 

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Thanks Joel,  Good point about cost-benefit on upgrades.  I'm counting on help - I've got a lot to learn and I've just started.  I'm enjoying the process!


Thanks Joe,  I hope it is fair game to use your photo of PdN to illustrate the post.  Yours was the 1st build log I read when I first got my PdN kit.  Inspiring.  Rigging is likely an issue though I'll have at least a little under my belt before I start either of these.

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Either way you have a solid kit to work from. I vote for the ship less traveled, if only to show something different


Don't dismiss the kit supplied wiod too quickly. There are some who use nothing but the kit wood and turn out amazing models. Save your money for other upgrades if nedded (such as rigging line or blocks, for example).

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Thanks Wayne. I'm new enough at all this that I haven't yet settled on my own standards. There are lots of divergent opinions yet also lots of agreement on other matters in this world. It's fun to work through the options and see what feels right to me. I try to stay open to new ideas and methods. I've done no "kit-bashing" but am intrigued by the creativity that people show in their builds.

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I am halfway though building the PDN. Some things to consider on the kit.



1. The lines (body and sheer) follow the admiralty draught after it's capture. 

2. The ship was re-armed many times over it's career. The kit shows the ship armed with gunades and chasers. At one point it had a concentration of 8-12 6 pounder long guns that were replaced by the carronades to provide a much higher weight of broadside.

3. Despite the ship being supplied with brass carronades and chase guns, they are too big and out of scale. Also the carriages are too large for the model.

4. The gunport strip supplied in the kit is also off. It would be easier to frame them in instead of using the template.

5. The kit instruction booklet is cryptic at time without a clear correlation with the plans, but with some sleuthing and asking questions here (to those that have built the kit) that aspect can be overcome. 



1. The ship's hull is very easy to plank for a first ship. I would also recommend if you go down this road and build the kit, that you consider coppering the hull. The real ship was coppered, but the kit does not call that out.

2. The rigging is simplified, and is a decent primer on how a smaller flush deck ship was rigged. 

3. Gunades only have breaching ropes, so those also are simplified. However, it is very easy to add the run in and run out tackle. 

4. There are some excellent books available for background research. Philip Reed's Period Ship Modelmaking: An Illustrated Masterclass and Howard Chapelles, A Search for Speed Under Sail. Both books provide the information you will need to "fill in the gaps" not provided by the plans and instructions.



The PDN is an excellent kit for a first ship. It provides a means to try your hand at every key element of shipbuilding and working on a larger or higher detailed model like the Syren. With attentiveness and just by following the kit - the result can be fantastic, like Joe's version of the PDN above.


On the subject of the Syren Kit: First I must stipulate, that the kit is one of the best on the market. It is geared however to a builder who is an intermediate level to advanced who has finished some ships before. However, I have seen many first timers take on this kit and garner good results.

I also have the Syren kit on the shelf. Despite that I have finished several ships now, I am still waiting to work on it. The reason for this is due in part to my many projects in the shipyard presently, but despite my current level of experience I would like to gain more proficiency before I work on the kit - so hopefully I may do it justice.


Just my perspective. I hope this helps.


- Tim

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Hi Tim,


I've read your build log with interest.  The depth of your research and your determination to right some wrongs in the kit are well beyond my level.  I'm enjoying the craft of building the kit but am not yet knowledgable about the ships in general.  My sailing experience was limited to a half dozen seasons on crewing on a Soling and a Tanzer 26 at yacht club races.  I picked up a second hand Laser when my kids were teens (sad end to that boat in a windstorm here 3 years ago!).  Remarkably little beyond halyard, shroud, boomvang, jib and mainsail from my sailing days is helpful as I grapple with terminology of jibbooms and bobstays and yards and stunsail etc etc. So much arcane language to parse.


Your cons 4 and 5 worry me slightly (challenges to overcome!).  Your pros are all comforting.  (Your prose is clear too!)



Edited by Heronguy
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Hi Cy,


When I decided to tryout this sport I thought it'd be best to start small and get some experience. The Billing Boats No 600 seemed to offer an easy intro - small 1:100 and split hull.


Happened upon a older Bluenose II kit from Artesania Latina shortly after I'd order BB kit. Great price so why not I thought. I thought the first one would be a throw away where I'd make my mistakes and then I'd build a keeper that I could show off (none of my family give me much credibility for handy work.


Once I had both kits in hand I thought it'd be brilliant to make them at the same time so what I discovered,on one I could apply right away on the second.


What I have discovered is that I'm quite capable of creating new mistakes on the 2nd!


I've grown up aware of the Bluenose (Canadian eh?) and I think it's a beautiful ship. I'm happy with both the kits (usually happy that is)


I feel a bit similarly about the Prince and the Syren - more similar than different; both gorgeous as well; what I learn from one will help with the other.


You're right though - I can't really lose whichever order I do them.

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While the first kit I bought back in 1992 was the Willie L. Bennett, I shortly thereafter bought the AL Bluenose II because, like you, I was struck by its sheer beauty. I devoted most of my attention to the Bluenose. I had no idea what I was doing and the instructions were almost non-existent, but I muddled through, got the hull built and painted--glossy blue and red, glossy being my second big blunder. As I was admiring how beautiful the paint job was, I noticed my first blunder. The forward fourth of the hull was bizarrely misshapen and asymmetrical, looking much like an over-the-hill boxer's nose. I knew there was no way to fix that but I decided it didn't look too bad on the port side so when I put it in a display case, I would put the starboard side against the wall.


But like a marriage bad from day one, things got worse. The end came when I followed a tip I read somewhere to simulate caulking between deck planks by gluing black cotton thread between the planks when installing them. I did so, and then obliviously proceeded to sand the deck. In retrospect, I should have sanded the planks before installing them, because the sanding ripped apart the upper parts of the threads and it proved impossible to get them back to looking like black lines between the planks--it was a "salt and pepper" deck. At that point, annoyed with myself, AL, and the anonymous "glue black thread" tipster, I abandoned all hope and scuttled my Bluenose, a hundred hours or so of work sinking into oblivion.


This gives me an idea for a new thread on MSW--fatal blunders! Unfortunately, I have a couple more I could talk about.


Anyway, I'm sure you will do much better with your Bluenoses than I did. For one thing, there are so many more resources available today, none better than the help, encouragement, and friendship you have on MSW. So good luck, and I look forward to seeing your Bluenoses in the gallery.



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Thanks Cy!


Quite the experience with your Bluenose II. I'm glad it didn't turn you from model building! My wife and daughter are keen horseback riders and I've noticed that when a group of riders get together they always tell their "horror stories ". Now that I'm doing this hobby I'm understanding just how normal and useful that is!


The existence of this forum has already been crucial to my enjoyment of my new hobby. I'm glad it was here when I arrived.


Look forward to seeing your work as well.

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