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Chebeque By tartane - building techniques of three ships in 1:87 (HO) scale - Finished

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Since about several years I built three ships on the scale 1 : 87. I had more time because I had my pension. I built maquettes of historical buildings (castles, old cities) as well. Much of that can be seen on my website;  www.constantwillems.nl 

I follow the forum a few weeks and I realise that I built those ships in a way I do not find on the forum. So I want to explain it. I hope some of you may be interested.


The ships I built were a Chebeque, a Tartane and a Galleotta. Before those I built also a Venetian Pinque. All on the same scale. The Pinque has a somewhat different building technic, so I want to keep her out of this topic.


All the ships have sailed on the Mediterranean during the 16th, 17th and beginning 19th century. The have my warm interest because of their beauty. I personally consider the chebeque as the most elegant ship ever sailed.


It was difficult to find plans and details of these ships. All four ships demanded a considerable time of study before I could begin with the construction.


I chose the scale 1 : 87 because I like to built on a very small scale (see also the maquettes) and I have no room at home to place very large models.


I use for all models pear wood. I do not paint them, exept the sails.


So this is not a regular topic to show the building process from the beginning of a single model. The models are finished, but I like to show you how I worked on the models.


So consider the following postings as a building process of a new ship.



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After obtaining the plans I start with distrust everything which is to be seen on the plans. If I can, I obtain more plans and compare them. Are the historical details correct, the rigging, the form of the hull? Mostly I find things which do not like me, and at that point the search to obtain the correct details starts. This can take some months, but at the end I have the idea that I got everything. I am sure there are always mistakes that I overlooked and sometimes during the building process I discover details that should not be correct.

One of the things that remained for long time a mistery for me was the correct rigging for the Lateen sails. But now I know exactly how it works.


The plans for these ships are mostly not to be found in archives dating from the time of its appearence. There are only a few sources which can be trusted. I found the plans for the Tartane among the drawings of admiral Paris. Who lived in the beginning of the 19th century. He measured as much ships as he could, because he was aware of the fact that lots of ships would dissapeare because of the importance of the steamships.

Added by this post you find his drawing, which I used for  building the hull of the tartane.







Edited by tartane
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I always interested in new technics.  Where are the drawings of admiral Paris available?  This looks like a fine boat to model.  How long was she?



Edited by Cap'n'Bob

Every build is a learning experience.


Current build:  SS_ Mariefred


Completed builds:  US Coast Guard Pequot   Friendship-sloop,  Schooner Lettie-G.-Howard,   Spray,   Grand-Banks-dory

                                                a gaff rigged yawl,  HOGA (YT-146),  Int'l Dragon Class II,   Two Edwardian Launches 


In the Gallery:   Catboat,   International-Dragon-Class,   Spray

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Hi Bob,


It is certainly a fine boat to model. I do not have the original drawings, but you can find them on the internet by searching for; "Souvenirs de Marine conserves".

Tartanes were built in several versions. Most of them were between 18 and 24 meters long. There were even versions with two masts. They were used for everything, trading, fishing and even raiders used them. 

If you follow the next postings I show more of the model, from which even exists a video.



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At the start of the building I have to make an exact construction of frames.

The scale HO is very small so it is better to make a closed hull, so I do not show the frames when the model is ready.

I do this with my latest models always in the same way. I use the method of half-frames. For skratch models it is always difficult to saw an exact symmetric frame, especially when the model is very small. Little deviations are easily made, and polishing is not always the right solution. When you make half-frames you do not have these problems. Yust make one half of the model exact in the right proportions.

When everything is polished, and ready to attach the first planks, it is time to copy every frame for the opposite side. When you do this very precisely and attach them on the other side you will obtain a perfect symmetrical frame.

For the frames I use 3 mm plywood.

Within 4 metrs (= 4,5 cm on scale) from the bow, I use plywood of 2 mm. Within this range there are in reality hardly shorter planks than 4 metrs. So in this area you do not have to make joints between two planks. All the other joints I make exactly on the frames of plywood 3 mm. Plywood 2 mm. is easier to scrub in the right shape to fit the planks properly.

In the bow and the stern I sometimes make pieces of balsa-wood. This because the curves of the planks will be more intense and difficult to form on the frames.


Before I attach the frames I glue on the mid-frame the visible sections of the keel, stern and bow. I make these from pear-wood, less than 1 mm thick.

The mid-fame should not be made of too thick plywood, especially the bow would be unreal thick.


Next pictures show how I constructed the hull of the tartane.














Edited by tartane
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The planks for the hull I saw from a piece of pear wood.

I collect for that purpose oldfashioned drawing-squares which were formerly used by architects. I used them myself for about 40 years. The wood is of exellent quality and perfectly suitable for building models. For as far as I know all drawing-squares were made of pear wood. The parts of these instruments have a different thickness. I collected them from 4 mm till 12 mm. All depending from the measures of different drawing-squares, There were large and small ones. 

First of all you have to scrub away all the layers of lac and dirt from the surface. After that I saw a piece of about 20 cm. On the surface I draw lines as you can see on the sketch. With a fret-saw I saw the planks out of this piece. So in this case I obtain planks which measure 1,5 x 6 mm.


There are people who say that it is impossible. Yust try it. Of course.... you have to saw several meters to obtain sufficient planks to build the model, and that will cost a lot of time. I tryed it with a sawing machine, but this went to fast and did not work.


After that scrub the surfaces to get out the most disturbing deviations, and the planks are ready to assemble.

It depends of the scale how broad the planks have to be. At a scale of HO it has to be 4 mm (= about 35 cm). So if I can I search for a suitable drawing-square.  


I do not paint my models, so I have to make choises in the color of the wood. Sometimes I obtain a different color of pear wood, but in the case of chebeque and  tartane I used  for some details parana-pine, which is very light.


On the picture you see  tartane. the rubbing strake has already been attached. In front of the model are two piles of planks. One of pear wood, the other of parana-pine.







Edited by tartane
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The planks are the next parts of the model. I Always start below the rubbing strake. This is not always the correct way of building the real ship, but it works very well for me.

Before attaching the planks I rubb the sides with a soft pencil, mostly 6B. This will imitate the caulk between the planks and the joints. The pear wood is very easy to bend. When it needs an intens bend I plunge it in hot water or I take small parts a while in my mouth. When the plank is glued to the frame (I never use nails on this scale) it will have a very dirty surface, owing to the pencil and glue. But when the entire  hull is polished and varnished it will be very nice to look at.

While working from the rubbing strake to the keel you will see the number of planks will not be the same midships as it will be at het bow and the stern. The lower I come the more inventive I have to be, to get the hull closed in a proper way. I Always avoid sharp triangels at both ends of the planks.  In case of the real ship; in a triangel piece it is impossible to hammer a nail.

Because of this the planks will not have the same width in the keel area and sharp ends are not to be seen.

In the picures the dirty surface of tartane yust after attaching the planks, and the bottom of chebec after polishing and varnishing. Note the irregular course of the planks and the solution to avoid triangular ends near the keel.






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Above the rubbing strake Tartane, chebeque and Galeotta have a somewhat lighter colored wood. And sometimes a band of dark wood, inserted in the planking of the railing. The railing supports are part of the plywood frames. On scale HO these supports are to thick and only useful to attach the planks between the rubbing strake and the the railing. Once the planks are attached and glued, I carefully remove the supports, one by one, and replace them by much smaller ones in massive wood. As can be seen on the picture the two supports on the left are the original plywood supports. More to the right the replaced supports can be seen.




Edited by tartane
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In the last posting I showed the construction I used by replacing the railing supports. By some models the railing is also planked at the inner side. In that case the supports are invisible and are not necessary to build in the model. Chebeque has both types of railing as can be seen on the picture.

This ship has also unsusual decks, owing to the construction of the hull. The main deck has on port and starboard an extra deck in order to get a horizontal place for the cannons. These decks have planks which are not attached to each other. There are open spaces between them. This means that under these decks are hollow spaces which allows overcoming water to stream away to scuppers in the side of the hull. On the pictures is to be seen that the extra decks have planks which stand square, because of this reason,  to the length of the ship. The upper deck on the stern is also of an unsual construction. The deck is partly open and partly provided with gratings. The reason for it is still a mystery. I believe that overcoming waves and rain could leave very quickly the decks, otherwise it would stream on the main deck. Unfortunally these gratings are not drawn in the correct way on plans of the chebeque. Mostly is depicted that the whole upper deck was one large grating from port to starbord. This is wrong, because the deck would be very weak and heavy. On the few existing original drawings of cebebes you will never see one large grating.

Galeotta is also planked at the innerside of the railing.

Tartane has visible supports.

This is the last posting I do to explain how I made the hulls of those three beautiful ships.

If there are any questions about these ships , please ask me.

Thanks for your interest, and please forgive my poor English.




p 005.JPG


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Wonderful little model

Regards Christian


Current build: HMS Triton, 1771 - reconstruction, build log

Current drawing projects: HM Cutter Rattlesnake/Alert, 1777;  HM Bomb Vessel Granado, 1742; HM Sloop Fly, 1775


"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." Salvador Dali

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  • 3 years later...
On 2/18/2017 at 4:37 AM, tartane said:

The ships I built were a Chebeque, a Tartane and a Galleotta.

Beautiful work and excellent explanations of how you build your models. I am very impressed that you were able to accurately cut your planks using a fret saw. I also enjoyed reading about your various models on your website. Thanks very much.

Bob Garcia

"Measure once, cuss twice!"


Current Builds: 

Hms Brig-Sloop Flirt 1782 - Vanguard Models

Pen Duick - Artesania Latina 1:28


Completed: Medway Longboat 1742 - Syren Ship Model Co. 

Member of the Nautical Research Guild




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