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USS Constitution by JSGerson - Model Shipways Kit No. MS2040

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Chain and Rope Pots (Pipes)

There wasn’t much that I could find in the US Navy plans about these chain pots or pipes. This where the anchor chains and ropes are funneled through the gun deck to their storage areas. The arrangement plans call them “pots” but the labels on the actual item on the ship call them “pipes”. I did find a rudimentary drawing which I believe is for the forward chain pot (labeled Hawse Pipe on the ship). The scale dimensions were determined by actual dimensions on other parts of the drawing (not shown).  They appear to be the same size as the aft pots which to be used for the anchor hemp rope, but don’t have the extra shoulder.

Chain Pot Plan.jpg

Chain Pipe.jpg

Chain Pot (Hawse Pipe).jpg

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Gun Deck Sea Chests

This next gun deck item I will call “Sea Chests” for lack of a more accurate term, I couldn’t find any plans or diagrams, so size and shape are my best guess; there are two of them as far as I know. One is near the stove and the other is near the capstan. They appear to be built as part of the ship because at least one of them appears to have vertical structure going through it.

Sea Chest near stove.png

Sea Chest near capstan.png

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They were relatively easy to make due to their simply construction. The hardest part were the baseboards and the handles due to their delicateness and tiny size. The handles consisted of a vertical arced shape piece of wood with a loop of rope passing through its center. Those pieces of wood worked out to be about 5/32” long, 1/32” wide at its widest point, and 3/64” thick. I could barely hold them, let alone shape them.


I had two choices for materials to use as the handle rope, left-over twisted brass wire I used for the construction of the bilge pump handles or thread. The thread at these short lengths and scale, is very stiff and does not hang naturally. The twisted wire on the other hand looks like rope and can be shaped to drape properly with little effort. So, twisted wire it was.


The completed sea chests:





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Gun Deck Anchor Chain Guides

I was going to work on the scuttlebutt, grog tub, and harness cask, but in the process of doing my research to figure out what their dimensions were, I ran across an old B&W photo showing all three of those items, but it also showed something else that I could not identify earlier while working on the deck eyebolts and rings. Indicated on the 1931 US Navy arrangement plans (Note, they are not shown on the 1927 arrangement plans), was something that appeared to be under the anchor chain, but I didn’t know what they were (example in red circle). The B&W photo cleared that up They were, for lack of a proper technical term, chain guides. So, that is what I worked on.

As I count, there are 11 pairs of them, but only 10 pairs will be potentially visible on my model. Presently, on the actual ship, they don’t exist. I suspect they were removed, like many of the eyebolt and rings, due to tripping hazards for the tourists. Also, the anchors and their chains and ropes are not present on the ship either.

Anchor Chain Arrangement Plan.png

Anchor Chain Guides.png

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Then using my Dremel drill press accessory, a jig was constructed so I could slide a piece of wood under a cutting bit of the drill. A piece of 1/8” x ¼” x 2” boxwood was the material of choice to be shaped. To aid in the setups, I sketched a profile of the guide on the end of the wood stock.




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The shaped wood stock was then sliced like a loaf of bread into twenty 1/16” slices and stained with Minwax Golden Pecan. Due to the B&W photos, I didn’t know the color of the guides. I assumed they were of natural wood finish as paint would have just worn off from the sliding chain. The last two images below show the guides on the deck as a dry fit. These will be glued into place before I move on.





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Scuttlebutt and Scuttlebutt Table

I found the US Navy plans for the scuttlebutt, but surprisingly, there were two types. The first one is the one you see on the ship today. It’s the barrel on its side with a square opening. The other, is an upright cask, oval in cross section, almost identical to today’s harness cask. I’ll using that plan as a guide when I make harness cask. The US Navy plan below has my working dimensions (in red) for the fabrication of the scale barrel.


(BTW usedtosail, the name's Gerson,... Jonathan Gerson, but I'll take the compliment anyways 8-) )

Scuttlebutt Table Plan.png

Suttlebutt Scale Plan.png

Edited by JSGerson
Wrong image uploaded
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I have a simple tabletop Micro-Mark wood lathe that I have hardly used and have not much skill with. With this I made my very first wooden barrel using a short length of ½” dia. dowel. The barrel was cut, shaped, and then sliced off the dowel with the Byrnes saw. Surprisingly, I did it right on the first try! That is not my usual experience. The square hole was cut and then the barrel was stained with Minwax Early American 230.




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I did not have any plans for the scuttlebutt table or the barrel stand, so their dimensions were guesstimated and came up with the following plan. It was just a matter of making the boxwood pieces and assembling them. The tabletop was stained Minwax Mahogany 225. I initially tried to stain the table structure with Minwax Ebony 2718, but the stain was too transparent, so it was painted with gloss enamel black.


Brass tape was used for the brass barrel bands. This was the same kind of tape I used for the copper cladding on the stove pan. You may have noticed that the images show there are six brass bands on the scuttlebutt whereas I have only four. That was a matter of practical necessity because I could not cut the tape any narrower with consistent precision.

Scuttlebutt Table Plan.png






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Harness Cask

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I based my harness cask on a plan of a version of the grog tub not shown on the actual ship (that I know of). The obvious difference is that the grog cask plan shows a circular opening in its top while the actual harness cask has a hinged top.

Harness Cask Plan.png

Harness Cask 1.jpg

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The plan was used as a template, by gluing a scaled version  onto a piece of boxwood with rubber cement. The top side image was trimmed so I wouldn’t confuse top from bottom. The sides were angled in to match the template and then sanded and filed to the final cask shape. The lid was fabricated separately.






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I did not have any plans for the lid, so I winged it. I scored a line into the lid to simulated where the lid would swing open. If you look really close, you may notice there are too sets of hinges on the harness cask, one set for each side as the lid opens from ether side. I chose not to have a double hinge due to scaling limits. I used a couple of pieces of eyebolt “legs” wire. Every time I snipped off piece of excess eyebolt, I kept the scrap for situations such as this one. The tiny pieces of wire made the hinge more realistic. Next, I added the brass bands and hinges.



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The last bit of the cask was its base. I noticed that this cask sat in a pan for some reason. The base of the pan was carved from 1/64 spruce plywood. The rim was a strip of card stock CA’d to the plywood. To do this, the plywood was lying on a piece of wax paper while I liberality applied the CA as I worked my way around the plywood edge. The card stock soaked up the glue which gave it stiffness. The wax paper easily peeled off the construct.  The pan was painted flat black.


The pan in turn sat on two layers of dunnage which was a few pieces of scrap wood and stained.

Harness Cask 2.jpg



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The Grog Tub and Table

I had no plans for either the grog tub or its table. This was strictly eyeball stuff based on pictures. Constructed like the harness cask, I used a piece of 3/8” x 3/8” x 3/8” boxwood and shaped it. The lid was a separate piece. I took my best shot carving the lid handle, but I think its too big. I just couldn’t make it any smaller



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Here are the three items in dry fit position on the gun deck along with all the other components. At this point I am entertaining various scenarios as to which areas to work on next. I’m reluctant to install anything permanent on the gun deck yet because I haven’t fabricated the quarter galleries, or for that matter finished the hull itself. I had thought I might close in the gun deck to get to the spar deck and get in sync with the practicum which did not address the gun deck interior. But I fear the manipulation of the hull for planking, coppering, etc. might damage the delicate items on the gun deck. As it is, the gun deck ladder stanchions all have to be fixed.  We’ll see.




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  • 1 month later...

Hull Planking Continued

The stanchions made from music wire for the ladders going down below the gun deck, were all knocked off over time due to the manipulation of the hull in the building process. They could not be fastened strongly enough due the very small contact surface area between the music wire and the ladders. Should they get knocked off again, which is probably likely, repairing them would be difficult especially once the hull planking gets below the gun deck level. Therefore, once I decided this detail had to be sacrificed, they were permanently removed. Now I was free to work once again planking the hull without fear of future repairs.


This is only my second attempt at planking a hull, the first was the Rattlesnake. So, I’m going to take my time and hopefully avoid too many screw-ups.


Following the instructions of Robert Hunt’s practicum, 7+ bands of five planks width each at midship position were laid out, tapering as required as they were extended to the bow and stern. Contrary to Mr. Hunt’s process of planking one side completely and then doing the other, I am alternating side to side as the bands are planked. Additionally, Mr. Hunt worked straight down from top to bottom, I other hand will work a top band first then alternate with a bottom band meeting in the middle. Should any corrections be required, I hope they will be easier in the middle somewhere rather than at the bottom where I believe it might be more difficult to correct.


The first band has been completed. I can already see that a lot of sanding and some filler is going to be required. Thank goodness the hull is going to be painted and will hide most of my poor planking techniques. This gives me a greater appreciation to those builders who can do this cleanly and without any paint.











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  • 4 weeks later...

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