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USS Constitution by JSGerson - Model Shipways Kit No. MS2040

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There is a rudder post hole which must be drilled at a slight angle parallel to the stern post. This is easier done now, before the aft edge is created. I found that if I taped a bamboo skewer to the forward edge I got the right pitch for the hole. Using my Dremel drill stand, I drilled a pilot hole with consecutively larger drill bits until I used the largest bit that would fit in the rotary tool. The resulting hole was still smaller than the required 5/16” diameter I needed. This was done using a full-size hand held electric drill with the 5/16” bit. I would have used a drill stand if I had one of the proper size, but the pilot hole did its job.



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The top surface is slightly rounded, dropping down at the sides. I used a sandpaper block to create the curve.


The aft edge has a slight rounded profile in the plan view which was create by carefully following the lines on the template.


The aft edge is also angled in at about 50 degrees which as it turns out is the maximum my disk sander will handle. By keeping the wood flush to the plate and slowly feeding it into the spinning sanding disk using lines I drew on the sides as guides, a nice edge was obtained.


Finally, the aft edge has a rounded bottom corner but an angled top corner. This was created with the sandpaper block.


At this point, I got a very pleasant surprise, when I placed the completed transom filler block and dry fitted it on the stern post, it fit like a glove on the very first try. That doesn’t happen very often.






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I don't know about anyone else, but I was getting an error message and could not log on for three days. Finally, somehow, everything is back.


Stern Filler Blocks

The stern filler blocks have a lot of curves and compound curves at that. Again, using the kit plans as templates, the appropriate template was rubber cemented to the appropriate sides of the raw basswood blocks. Using my vintage Dremel scroll saw of almost 40 yrs. old, the S-curve cuts were made. To make those cuts, my saw took about ten minutes each block. I don’t know if it was the thickness of the blocks, the fact basswood was being cut, the saw itself, or all of the above, but it got done.


For those of you who are interested, the saw is a Cat. 572, Deluxe Moto-Shop 15”. The picture I got off the internet shown below, is a good representation of mine. I was just too lazy to set up a shot to get a portrait of mine.




Edited by JSGerson
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On 12/26/2017 at 5:29 PM, Geoff Matson said:

Great job on the counter block! This piece is really critical as so many parts of the stern align to it. The counter block is truly, a hard part to get right, so many angles to it. 

Just wanted to echo Geoff - the counter block is really tough to do, having done one myself for my Morgan.  Really nice job.

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You are doing a great job. 

When you are working on your counter and bow filler pieces, it is a good time to use a test plank to see how things are looking. Now is the time to make any needed changes. This is the foundation for the rest of your build.  Your planks will need to fit nicely into stern and bow rabbits. (that little grove that runs along the keel and stem). The planks on the stern are really hard to fit right. They will need to lay flat and tuck in to the bottom of the counter.  The test plank will also help when you begin to fair the frames. Just take your time and be patient. Look at some of the other build log and you see what I mean. 

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Bow Filler Blocks

I had anticipated that the bow filler blocks would go as easy as the stern blocks. Well they did…and didn’t. The initial cuts on the scroll saw went as planned, following the pattern on the templates. Removing the remaining excess wood took a bit longer than I expected. After removing the remaining bulk of wood with the disk sander, I was constantly checking the block on the bulkheads to see if a plank would fit around the curves. The one thing I feared was taking too much off or taking any material off in the wrong place. So, a little bit at a time, with constant checking, using just files, I believe I managed to get the proper shape. This took quite a bit of time. Patience, tenacity, and perseverance are the key.


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At this point, the templates were removed, and new ones for the notches were put on the top surface. These were for the gunports and head access frames. These were delicately cut out with an X-axto knife with a fresh blade. Even then, I managed to crack one of the blocks near the big edge notch. PVC glue was used for the repair and I waited 24-hours for it to set to ensure a strong bond. These were then glued into place.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Bow Knightheads and Timberheads

The bow knightheads and timberheads are those vertical structural members at the front of the ship. The knighthead is the member which is next to the stem. I didn’t know that as I had to look them up. Anyways, in order to follow the plans exactly as drawn, I continue to use copies of the plans as templates marking each piece with their appropriate identifications. The plans don’t specifically state use a particular piece of wood stock, so I checked with Robert Hunt’s practicum to see what he used. What he chose made sense; so, I did the same:

  • Spar Deck Framing – 3/32”
  • #1 - 5/16” x 3/16”
  • #2, #3, & #5 – 1/8” x 3/16”
  • #4 – 1/16” x 1/8”

The practicum started with fitting and gluing the knighthead (#1) and then #5 to align the spar deck frame. I found it easier to install the spar deck frame first and then used it to align the remaining parts. After a lot of dry fitting of the pieces singularity and all together to ensure proper alignment, they were glued in with wood glue. What I noticed was that although I meticulously followed the template, the notches in the spar deck frame were not exactly the right dimensions. Some fudging had to be done.






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After reading another build log, it was brought to my attention, that I should check the fit of the bowsprit. It was a good thing that I did. The dowel that will be use for the bowsprit did not fit. With the help of my rotary tool and a drum sander, that was quickly resolved. It is a lot easier to adjust that now, rather that latter.



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Stern and Transom

From what I have read, the stern and transom seem to give a lot of builders, fits, I’m no exception. Just look at my Rattlesnake log. I decided that if there were going to be windows in the transom and quarter galleys (which there will be), then there ought to be something inside to see through those windows (never mind poor internal lighting and confined space). That means I must alter the kit’s method of forming them. To do that, I need to understand what is the kit’s method, so I can alter it to my needs.


My plan of attack was to mock up the stern based on the kit’s instructions and then make plans for the alterations. The kit provides 6 laser cut stern frames to sit on the stern counter to provide the support and create the shape of the transom. Those frames are almost identical to each other save for the two outer pieces (#3) which are a bit thicker and have subtle angle changes. I don’t know if #1 and #2 are supposed to be different, but I can’t tell the difference. Right off the bat, I had a minor problem, one of the two #3 pieces was not formed properly. This by the way is not unique to me. I noticed this flaw in at least one other build log.


Another problem that seems to catch a lot of builders off guard is the subtle curve of the transom as seen in the plan view. If the builder was careful when he created the stern counter, it should have been noted. The problem usually rears its ugly head when installing the laser cut the taffrail. Bob Hunt in his practicum made me aware with his warning. He stated that nowhere, either on the plans or the instruction booklet, is this curve specifically addressed. The problem arises because the 6 laser stern frames tend to create a flat transom surface as apposed to a slightly bowed one.


Based on and inspired by CaptainSteve (he’s doing a more extensive modification), It now appears that I will have to modify the 4 inner frames (#1 and #2) to allow me to create an open space for the Captain’s area and hopefully, I’ll address the errors I’m aware of and not create any new ones. I’m really flying without a net as I have never kit bashed without someone’s detailed instructions to follow. CaptainSteve has not finished his modifications or at least documented them so far.

Stern Frame Errors.png

Transom - Plan View.png

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Jon. My apologies for becoming somewhat stalled on my own build. 'Tis true that this area is proving tricky, and the problems you have noted above are exactly those that I have encountered. Although I haven't been documenting them all in my build log, I have made a number of attempts to get this section the way I want it to be. If it helps you at all, I have now opted to not have the uprights sitting angled, as my log currently shows. This just wasn't working for me !! I'm now using just the template from one of the stern frames as an outline, and cutting only three stern frames: port, starboard and central. I am cutting an upper and lower piece to form the window frames. Note the notches on the backs of the stern frame pieces (pic is a bit small) still need to be chiseled out, which will be where the window frames will sit. Here's some pics from my latest attempt to demonstrate what I mean: 


 DSCN0573.JPG.2a96e1e8cb41ae66322b5a18c503f87a.JPG                 DSCN0560.JPG.05a279213c4881b97d7f56716fc70a90.JPG                  DSCN0550.JPG.142a23f15e42ae65274094b0f75f965e.JPG             

 I modified this laser-cut piece slightly to                  Port, Central and Starboard frames. The                    Window frames in two pieces. These fit

 use as the template for the three frames.                uprights on the outer ones are a bit                          into recesses cut into the backs of the

                                                                           shorter than the centre one.                                     frames.



DSCN0562.JPG.eecfe97baa6960d0f36b8e06d2bc1175.JPG                  DSCN0563.JPG.4caff016ba5d5c5decf374d31f87d269.JPG                  DSCN0567.JPG.5418fe5d4173b7a4de29cf546466daf7.JPG

Looking from the inside at an earlier                         Other side of last picture. This one was                     Internal doors leading to side galleries, 

(failed) attempt.                                                     close, but the windows just weren't quite                   for when I (eventually) get this section 

                                                                            correct.                                                                  right !!!



Hope these give you a few ideas for your own work, and thanks for motivating me back into my own modelling room for this weekend, at the least. Keep up the great work.



Edited by CaptainSteve
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Not sure about the "courage (and) tenacity" part, Jon. Certainly "stubborn", with a not-so-healthy dose of OCD thrown into the mix.


Okay. I've edited the above post with slightly bigger pictures (didn't want to photo-bomb your log). Hope that makes it easier for you. Any questions, just feel free to ask.


Edited by CaptainSteve
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I’ve been going over and over the stern bash working out first, what I want as a final product and second, what do I have to do to get there. Basically, bulkhead R and the stern frames must be modified. In the process of doing this, I discovered I have a major error: my unmodified stern frames are off vertically by an 1/8”. If the frames were to be installed as called for by the kit plans, the tops of the stern frames should be flush with the top of bulkhead R to support the planking. In my case, the frames exceed the height of the bullhead by 1/8”. Reading Robert Hunt’s practicum at the end of section 2.2, he states: “…my transom frames [are] sticking up higher than they should. This is because my counter piece was too thick…” He then goes on to say he corrected the problem but did not discuss why it happened nor how he fixed it. Either there is a design flaw in the kit, or he and I committed the same error somehow.


Now the good news is because I already planned to modify the frames, I should be able to correct the problem. I just don’t know where I went wrong. Unlike Mr. Hunt, my counter piece appears to have the correct dimensions and is seated flush right on the keel frame. All the individual parts appear to have the proper shape and dimensions, all the reference lines line up, and the parts fit like they are supposed to… except when I measure them as a whole. I’m 1/8” too tall. I need to remove that 1/8” but from where? I don’t want to fix one problem only to create others further into the build.


As I see it, I really have only two options: I can either remove the 1/8” from the top of the frame or I remove it from the bottom. If I remove the excess material from the bottom of the frames, I will be changing the exterior shape of the stern. If I remove the material from the top of the frames, I am only affecting the interior of the stern. In effect I would be lowering the internal structural support to line it up with the remainder of the bulkheads. If this were a real ship, it would be like lowering the stern gundeck ceiling 9.6”. So, lowering the ceiling is what I’ll do. I still don’t know where I messed up. Here in the picture below are the #3 exterior frames with the mocked-up corrections. The internal frames will have extensive modifications including the error correction and still need to be designed.


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Must've missed this one myself, Jon. Probably because I have only ever tried to loosely dry-fit the many attempts at this section. For some stupid reason, I had just assumed that if I stuck to the same height as the laser-cut pieces then I would be okay. This was one reason why every frame that I have cut for re-builds was made to fit that modified template (pic 1 above).


A quick dash to the modelling room and, unfortunately, I think that you may be right !!



This will mean that the ceiling will be lower. This is going to drastically affect the window size and placement, since these have to sit between the 'knuckle' of the transom, and the lower edge of the roof-beam part of the transom frames.


I'm up for another re-build, ain't I ??


PS: A couple of quick pics from my build ...

post-675-0-85641500-1454786974_thumb.jpg.3a5b896827e5a6cf350d2e1863ab015d.jpg     post-675-0-91517500-1454788111_thumb.jpg.9dabc7f8faa976622ea8210fa4768326.jpg

All of these frames were cut to match that template. Here, the height appears okay. Yet, in my current attempt, the error you show seems to appear.

Most perplexing ?!?!?



Edited by CaptainSteve
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  • 2 weeks later...

Looking at pictures of the interior of the cabin, one can see the fine appointments on all the white walls of the aft cabin. To recreate this affect, I borrowed something I saw David Antscherl do for his model of a sixth-rate sloop at the NRG convention in Charleston SC some years back. This is the model he wrote four book volumes about. He had a checkerboard floor in the captain’s cabin. At that time, I had just finished doing the same thing for my Rattlesnake. I asked him how he got all his checker squares to line up so perfectly. He gave me a wry smile and said he printed the pattern on paper and pasted it in. I, following Robert Hunt’s practicum, had made mine out wood. It was a good build exercise and I’m glad I did it the hard way, but the master builder took the simpler route and got excellent results.

Since it will difficult to view this room in the model, going through all the effort to recreate seemed pointless, yet I wanted to capture the essence of this space. So, I printed wall pattern as well as the planking for the floors. Yes, I CHEATED!

Tour 01.png

Tour 03.png

Tour 05.png

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Not knowing at this point how much I will reveal the gundeck especially the aft section, I wanted to make sure I had at least some source of light to illuminate the aft cabin. The quarter galleys have lots of windows, but they’re mostly for looks as they only illuminate the small side room used as a head and washing area. The entrance to the port quarter galley is from the captain’s stateroom is through a gunport like opening. The captain’s stateroom has two additional doors, one directly to the aft cabin and the other forward into the gun deck. They have a window of sorts, but they have no glass. It is more like fancy wooden bars on a prison door. Of course, the captain’s stateroom and head are mirrored on the starboard side marked as the Commodore stateroom on the US Navy plans. The same is true of the two aft cabin doors, one on either side of the alcove. I was able to recreate those barred doors in the #2 frames but not on the R Bulkhead. They will have printed images of doors openings. Had I thought about it before I installed the R bulkhead, I could/would have made them. However, it was the #2 frame windows I really needed open to allow what little light I had coming in from the quarter galleys. The last source of light, will be from the three transom windows. Of course, if I open up the spar deck a bit, I’ll get a bit more.




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