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USS Constitution by JSGerson - Model Shipways Kit No. MS2040

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If you made any mistakes on your ship's boats, they are certainly well hidden because I can't see them. I'll be making oars for all the boats and maybe other items as well. I'll see see when I get to that point. Thanks for the praise, I certainly did not expect that when I look at all the other people's work. I hope to do half as well.

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I hope you are right. The boats are small, simpler, individual projects, so they're "easier" to do. I can wrap my head around the whole boat. The ship on the other hand....is complicated. I guess I will have to break the ship down into a lot of little projects and take it one step at a time per project. Thanks for your confidence, I hope I don't disappoint.

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Yes they are mini-kits...without instructions. The kit does not provide any step by step diagrams or instructions other than some good plans. I'm using the practicum from Robert Hunt as a guide. I've added more than what his practicum shows, but I am using his progression method, i.e. what to build first, second, etc.


When I made my Rattlesnake, I bought a little kit from Model Expo for the ship's boat instead of using the provided shell of a boat.



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It’s been a number of weeks since I posted. I was in Florida for a week (again) with Mom at her condo; she celebrated her 99th birthday. My sister and I alternate about every 6 -8 weeks or so visiting her. The night before I drove the 600 miles back to South Carolina, I received a text message from my cat sitter – my roof was leaking. After I got home, it started to rain again and in buckets. Well, my roof leaked again. Luckily the down pour lasted only 20 minutes, but I collected a half gallon of water in my attic.


To make this saga short, well shorter, the leak was from one of two Dish satellite antennas which was mounted on the roof for the last 10 or 11 years. Eight years ago, I had a new roof put on which covered the satellite mount which made the mount even more water proof, until it wasn’t. The other dish was mounted on my chimney. The reason I had two was they worked in tandem so that between the two, they could see the three satellites. My house is surrounded by tall trees…lots of them.


The satellite company was supposed to upgrade my service which would have made the roof antenna obsolete because the new system couldn’t use a second dish… provided I had the trees trimmed. That was supposed to happen once I returned from Florida. I guess that roof antenna couldn’t wait.


Well I got a temporary fix to the roof mounted dish (The mount is now covered with tarpaulin and tape), I had the trees trimmed, so now I’m waiting for the insurance man to set up a permanent fix and for Dish to come and upgrade their system. Oh, did I mention my A/C went out just before I went to Florida?


Back to boat building


Gig’s Thwarts

Working from the Gig’s stern, I started to add the thwarts which were made from 1/64” boxwood. Once I had fitted a thwart to its position, I marked the position of the stanchion and drilled a hole for the 1/32” diameter support. Like the bench seat, I used bamboo which I pulled through a drawplate. The bamboo was inserted into the thwart, position on the boat to get the appropriate length and then glued with CA. The excess was snipped off and filed flush, then the whole assembly was stained. Then it was just a matter of gluing it into place.


At the bow, there was the matter of the grating. This time, it did not have to be removable like the stern because the lifting rings were accessible. Once more, I cut the mesh to emulate the diagonal pattern of the grating.






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Thanks for the invite, I would very much like to see your shop. I also got a PM recently from Canute who lives in Hendersonville, NC, and Chris Coyle who lives the Greenville/Spartanburg NC area also suggesting an occasional meet since none of us have had the opportunity to join a local modeling club. Maybe we could work something out.


And yes, the ship's boats are fun to do especially when there are nice detailed plans from which to work from. I enjoyed making the ship's boat from Model Expo's mini kit boat, I just justed couldn't wait and started Conny's boats first.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, I know, I’ve been terribly slow in my posts, especially for such small models as these boats. But personal events have taken precedence. My roof was still not permanently fixed and couldn’t be until I had resolved my TV satellite problem. Dish came twice to my home trying to find a location for the new satellite dish which did not violate their safety rules for installation and which would provide a clear line-of-site to the satellites. They failed. Unfortunately, I had to cancel that account and got a cable company to install their system. That killed two to three days.


My iPhone acted up and that took a couple of days to resolve. My car battery died, and then my jumper cables broke when I tried to hook up to another car. I lost a half day getting help, a new battery, and new jumper cables. My A/C stopped working again but this time it wasn’t a coolant leak but a faulty solenoid switch. I’m in hot, humid South Carolina and A/C comes first before anything. The unit is 13 years old so it may be time to get a new one…eventually. The roofer finally was here yesterday and permanently fixed the roof.


So, as I type this, the cars works again, the iPhones works as it is supposed to once more, the trees are trimmed, the TV satellite dish has been removed from the roof and the other was abandoned in place on the chimney, and the new TV cable system has been installed. All is good with the world once again.


Back to the build.

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Gig Gangway Board

The gig gangway board lies on top of the thwarts with holes for the masts. This was made from 1/8” x 1/64” boxwood. The mast rings were formed from  1/8” split rings cut to size and shaped. Then using the wide flat face of a screw driver lying on the ring, it was pounded a couple of times with a hammer to flatten the wire. The forms were then blackened and glued into position.






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Gig Thwart Braces

The thwart braces are almost not required for a boat of this scale, they are so small. But I like like to pull the viewer in so the closer they get, the more they discover. A case in point was my Rattlesnake’s tree nails. I deliberately did not use a high contrasting color so that they would be noticeable. Only when one looked real close did you realize they were there. The same is true of the braces. These thing are tiny as should on the scale plans: 5/32” x 1/64”. On my model, they are a bit smaller due to my lack of building skills to maintain that kind of tolerance. I had to trim them to make they fit.


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Gig Rail Cap

On the full-scale US Navy drawing, the rail cap is ½”. At scale, that works out to be 0.0065” abou the thickness of s piece of copy paper. As it so happens, like many of you model builders, we don’t throw anything away. What is scrap to one person is perfection to another. While cutting a piece of stock to size with Byrnes saw, I sliced off a strip of paper thin wood. It was perfect for the rail cap.


First the strip was stained. Then two pieces where used to cover the rail using PVC glue. Once set, the excess was trimmed off with an X-actor knife and file. Finally, 4 cleats were made as before for the pinnace, and installed.


The was one small caveat, the stern grating has vanished into the land of lost socks. I had picked up the gig and forgetting that the grating was on the boat, turned it over and felt something hit my bare foot. At least I think it did. I did everything but rip the rug off the floor. No luck. So, for now, it’s gone and maybe it will make miraculous appearance before I need it again.

Otherwise I’ll have to make it again.



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Gig Rudder Assembly

Using the US Navy plans to make the templates for the rudder parts. I used 1/32” boxwood here because the rudder has some sharp curves and I wanted clean edges. Basswood can be a bit fuzzy. Both the kit plans and the US Navy plans show a yoke tiller.


The US Navy plans show a hole for a standard tiller (but no plan of it) which I assumed was to give the occupants of the boat a choice of steering methods.


The kit shows the tiller installed along with the yoke tiller. I would assume you would have one or the other, not both. But I’m not a sailor, I don’t know. I’ve looked at other builder’s models and of those that went to the trouble of making a yoke tiller, also had the standard tiller installed as well. So, unless someone can definitively state use one or the other, I’ll install both.


The first picture below shows the parts of the rudder and the yoke tiller. The second image show the rudder partial assembled and a bent 1/32” stock to be used for the standard tiller.


The rudder ended up being about 3/128” thick after sanding which is what the US Navy plans call for at scale. This required that I use very small diameter pins to secure the rudder to the stern. I used broken #80 drill bits. They are very thin, stiff, strong, and dark in color which will make them all but invisible. As I have mentioned before, I don’t throw away scraps. The broken bits are a case in point.



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The rudder was painted white. It look almost all brown in the image but that was just the shadow of the camera lens. The yoke tiller and the standard yoke are unpainted oak on the actual boat so these were given a light stain. The standard tiller looks awfully short to my eyes, but it matches perfectly with the kit’s plans. These pictures show the dry fit. They will be permanently assembled as a last step.




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Gig Thole Pins

The US Navy’s plans provide excruciating detail of the thole pins; way too much detail for this level of scale. The pins are not cylinder shaped but slightly conical; do not have a circular cross section, more oblong; come to a flattened rounded point at the top; and the pairs aren’t even the same shape. So like many of the other builders who decided to include thole pins, I chose to make mine circular cross section with a flattened pointed top. Using a Byrnes draw plate, I drew down bamboo skewers close to 7/128” in diameter. The thole plate was supposed to be 1/128” thick but I didn’t dare get any thinner than 1/64”.


My idea was to make the plates, drill the two thole pin holes, add the pins and use CA glue. Once the CA dried solid, I would trim the pins and sand the bottom of the plate and again using CA glue into position. Drilling two holes in the plate for the pins was next to impossible because as soon as the drill bit started to turn, the wood would split.


I then used Plan B.  I stained the plate first hoping the stain would act a bit like glue in the grain of the wood. Then I glued the plate into position on the rail to provide additional structural strength. Then I drilled the hole for the pins. Even then, I had one plate split.


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Gig Bumper

The major element of the gig was the bumper. This was made from 1/32” square boxwood which was pre-bent by soaking in water and then using a hot iron wood bender. It makes gluing so much easier.


Gig Completed

The pintle and gudgeon were made of ordinary white paper wrapped the rudder and rudder post. According to the photographs on the actual ship they are white so I did not use a contrasting color to make them stand out. It’s part of my philosophy that less is more. Finally, I used ordinary beige sewing thread for the yoke tiller ropes.





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  • 2 weeks later...


Just wanted to say that this week (Aug 21, 2017) has been interesting. I got to see the eclipse as I was right smack dab in the middle of the totality just west of Columbia SC, about an hour from my home (using back roads to avoid highway traffic). It truly was a spectacular sight. My friends and I could not have asked for a better day.


However, the next afternoon, I discovered that someone had rammed into my mailbox with a vehicle and smashed it into three pieces and damaged the one next to me sometime earlier in the day. I spent Wednesday removing what was left of the old mailbox post, and putting in a new one. If it’s not one thing, it’s another in the life of a home owner.


When we last saw the two whaleboats, I had left them as a simple hull with simulated ribs painted with white primer. Per the Hunt practicum, he gave the builder a choice of priming the hull and ribs and then adding the flooring, or adding the flooring and then painting a more difficult structure.  Since I had already primed the hull and ribs earlier, the flooring was added and then a coat of white primer was then applied to it. Ideally one would want to glue the bare wood pieces to a bare wood surface and not a painted one. On the other hand, a coat of gray had to be applied to the inside of the hull as well and I would still have to paint the hull and ribs again. Eventually all was glued and painted. The plans called for the use of 1/32” x 1/64” risings but due to the fragility of the stock and the low probability anyone would notice, 1/32” square painted white strip of basswood was used and positioned at the border of the white and gray paint inside the hull. The rising will eventually support the thwarts.



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Whaleboat Foot Rests

Just like in the gig, the foot rest were made in the same manner from 1/64” stock material. This time, the two position brackets were paint grey. I left the foot rest itself bare because I thought that paint would not last very long under the wear and tear of rower’s feet and they probably were replaced as needed. It also offers a little contrast.



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Whaleboat Thwarts


I decided to install the thwarts next. Because the thwarts are not painted, I used 3/32” x 1/64” boxwood. These were cut to fit and rested on the riser installed earlier.


The thwart stanchions are 1/32” in diameter and were made from bamboo pulled through a drawplate just like the gig.


The thwarts also have knees which attach to the top of the seats. These were made from 1/8” x 1/64” boxwood. The knees were first carved on the wood stock then cut off using the razor saw and miter. The miter was used more for creating consistent lengths than squareness of cut because I had to file off an additional fraction of wood so that the legs of “L” shape was a bit more than 90 degrees to conform to the shape of the hull. These were then glued into position.






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Work on the model may slow down a bit due to hurricane Irma. As I have mentioned in past posts, I visit my Mom in Florida every couple of months or so. She is now in the crosshairs of the storm. All my relatives who could have helped her, were too far away. I tried to get someone to board her condo windows up, but there was no plywood to be had. Luckily, my Sister (lives in Connecticut) managed to get someone with experience with elder care (she’s 99 years old) to stay with her 24-hours-a-day till the storm subsides. They are going to hunker down and hold on to it other. I wish I could have done more, but I’m 600 miles away. By that time, I’ll be feeling the effects here in South Carolina.


I don’t know what kind of condition Mom or her condo will be in, whether she will be able to stay there, or will have to come to live at my place for a while once the worst is over. It’s going to be an interesting and bumpy ride

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Jon, The boats are looking great! I can relate to your situation with your mom; I had to move my parents from N.C. to live with us in Ohio once they got too old to care for there home. They are tough situations but one can get through them. I am also thinking of Model Expo folks headquartered in Miami. Will keep all in our prayers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

First off let me say Mom rode out Irma just fine. She lost power for four days, but she and her temporary 24-hr aid survived with only minor discomfort. And, it appears that Maria will leave her alone.


Whaleboat Stern Benches and Aft Decks

I attempted without success to create the stern U-shaped bench from straight planks. I thought I would use the plans as a pattern cutting, fitting, and gluing the pieces so that I could insert the whole assembly as a unit. That didn’t work because the gluing surface were the edges of the planks and they would snap apart just looking at them.


I tried assembling them in situ, but there was no support for the planks to be attached to during construction.


I admitted defeat, and used 1/64” plywood and with an X-acto knife, etched in the board marks. Then I stained it which brought out the etched lines. Note: these images are dry fits.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Whaleboat Keels

It was time to install the keels. The kit called for a cross section of 1/32”w x 1/16”h. Per the US Navy plans, I figured it to be 1/32” x 3/64” not that anyone would notice. I cut some stock boxwood to my dimensions for the straight length on the Byrnes saw. I cut to size the curved sections of the bows and sterns from a cardstock template based on the actual model, not the plans. Once glued into place, they were painted with white primer.


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Whaleboat Paint Job

Using the paint from the paint package I purchased from Model Expo for this kit, I painted the hulls dark green. The first thing I noticed was that the paint dries very quickly both on the models and on the brush. This is some sort of water solvent paint at least for thinning and clean up. I found that I had to add water to the paint to make it flow better on the hull surface but that reduced the its coving effect of the white primer (also from Model Expo’s paint package). Because it dried so quickly, the thickness of the paint on the surface would vary. Because of that, I let the paint dry 24-hrs and gave the surfaces a very light sanding and applied a second coat. It improved, but I still did not like the effect I was getting. Not only that, these hulls are supposed to be somewhat glossy, whereas the painted dried flat.


So, I bit the bullet and purchased Model Master Green Gloss, an acrylic paint. After another light sanding of the hulls, I painted them with the acrylic…much better. I don’t know much about the different types of paints, their pros and cons, the do’s and don’ts, etc. Hopefully I haven’t violated any taboos on mixing paint types.


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