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Albatros by Achu - Constructo - Scale 1:55 - First wooden ship build

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First build. I'm hoping that this log can be useful to people in the future as well, so I'm going to approach it as a beginner, speaking to beginners. Went with Constructo's Albatros for a few reasons:

1. I have ambitions to do larger POB builds, but wanted to try the hobby out to make sure it was for me. I thought this kit was a good way to get planking experience on a small build.

2. Schooners have a special place in my heart, being from New England, and I like the sail plan and rigging options the kit allows.

3. Cost. First build!

4. Kit includes some tools, including smallish needle-nose pliers, knife blades and a handle, a sanding block, and a file. Note, only the pliers and knife blades have been useful; the collet on the knife comes loose too easily, the file is rubbish, and the block hasn't been a good size for anything yet.


First thing I noticed was that the plywood sheet from which the keel-frame is cut had a bend the long way. About 2.5-3mm. All the advice I read here said to request a replacement, but I thought I would try to fix it so I trudged along. Cutting out, numbering, and sanding the bulkhead pieces took about an hour. I built a jig for attaching them to the keel-frame flush and square, and used binder clips for the ends:




In the picture above on the right you can see the slight bend. My solution was to tighten the jig I'd built to hold it and simply warp it back straight using a screw, which acted as an adjustment knob. It worked pretty well:





After fairing the bulkheads to accept the deck, I attached it using wood glue (TB II) and the included nails, which, quoting a previous builder of this kit, bend just by looking at them. I found using the included needle-nose pliers like this, with steady, gentle pressure, worked the best (if you don't want to get one of the nail pushers):




After drying, I took it off the jig and the keel had stayed nice and straight, so I'm calling it a success.




Planking next.

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Planking took about two weekends to complete, so I hope I did it correctly! I spent a good two hours fairing the bulkheads, and another two building and fitting balsa blocks for the first gap between bulkheads at the bow. I had initially done a poor job of fairing there, so I wanted some extra support. I created a planking plan (which needed to be adjusted a bit halfway through) that called for tapering planks at the bow to about 2.5 mil, gradually back to 4 mil between the second and third bulkhead, and then to 5 mil at the third bulkhead. I used sandpaper to do this (not the approved method, I know, but it worked well and provided the material later used for filler). I added two wedges at the stern, allowing the planks to naturally follow the shape of the hull as best as possible. It gives a curvy flow to the planks -- perhaps not quite realistic? Another builder of this kit suggested a 30-minute soak was about right for the supplied mahogany planks. I couldn't agree more. Any less and they're still too brittle, any more and they're spongy and pressure from clamps will indent the wood (and that's with cold water). This also necessitated the first trip to the hardware store: 2 ft. PVC pipe section and some caps for a soaker. Best $3 I've ever spent maybe. I also used a soldering iron to encourage the bends while the planks were still wet, especially for the first and last few planks at bulkheads 7-9 where a nearly 90-degree twist is needed.


Attaching the planks was initially very frustrating but I eventually developed a system. For starters, I took the advice of someone on this forum and did not use the supplied nails to attach the planks while they dried (as the instructions suggest). I don't think I would have been able to with any accuracy anyway, as the wood is hard and the nails are very soft. Instead I used a mixture of clamps, tacks and glues. On the first plank I alternated between CA and wood glue to make sure I got the plank aligned the way I wanted. CA was used in other places where I absolutely couldn't get a good clamp in any way, but I always went back and reinforced with wood glue somehow.




Halfway through I ended up needing to shim up a couple of the bulkheads where I had been too aggressive with fairing (the supplied deck planking works very well for this). I also had a hard time beveling a few of the planks to make them snug with their neighbor but it all sanded out fine. The clamps above on the right were purchased at Home Depot for about 50c each and were great at keeping the planks in place. The rubber tips gripped very well along the front of the clamp; much better than clothespins or binder clips for this application. Thumb tacks were sometimes used at trickier points, especially once the clamps no longer fit. I would highly recommend filing or using a dremel on the tips to make them smaller before using on this kit. The bulkheads will split if you do not.




I used Elmer's white and saw/sanding dust from the planks to make filler as someone here suggested, and it has worked pretty well. I have a few questions if anyone would oblige me: 

1. What should I do for a finish with this kind of mahogany? Oil-based varnish of some sort? I'm up for anything that isn't too shiny, but I would like to take advantage of the wood as best as possible.

2. Is that something to leave to the end? Sooner rather than later? The instructions provide no support here.

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Hey Achu,


Looks like you are off to a good start, despite having to do some truing of the keel. I am no expert here but I found the Minwax Wipe on Poly works really nice on the wood. It brings out its natural beauty and leaves it satiny looking. There are many other poly finishes out there but this one Ive used on my Batelina and was very happy with the results.


Good luck, I will follow your build.



All in all it's pretty relaxing when you just take your time.....

Current build

Santa Maria by MarisStella


Batelina by MarisStella

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Well handled planking - great start.  I will join in your build and see where you take it.




Current BuildsBluenose II - AKrabbenkutter / Prince de Neufchatel / Essex Cross-section / Syren / Barque Stefano / Winchelsea / Half Hull / Maria HF31 - Dusek / Bandirma - Turkmodel

On the Shelf: Santisima Trinidad and Cross Section / HMS Cutter Alert / Tender AVOS / Confederacy

Suspended Build: Bluenose II - Billing Boats Nr 600 

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  • 1 month later...

Achu, looks like you're doing a great job. I have this same kit and have been working on it for about a year on and off. (I'm a bit ahead of you; I'm almost done with the deck fixtures.)

I used the minwax wipe-on-poly satin on the hull and deck, and I think it came out nice. For this model, I think it makes sense to put the finish on the hull after you put the bulwarks on and finish up the cannon ports. I actually waited until the point where the instruction said to do it, which was after 'step 14', but you could easily do it earlier.

I look forward to seeing your progress here, because I anticipate needing a lot of help with the rigging, and you seem to know what you're doing:)

keep up the good work.

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  • 4 months later...

Thanks, all, for the help so far! I've taken some time off from building over the summer for travel and work. But now I'm back at it!


Since my last post I have planked the deck, attached and planked the bulwarks, finished most of the deck furniture, and begun attaching the keel. Most of this I did in fits and starts when I could squeeze time in, so I didn't take detailed images or record notes. I'll try to recall some of the more difficult stages and describe how I worked through them here.



Deck planking was straightforward. The planks are very thin, so they warp. Especially when they're wetted with glue. I let each one dry for an hour before applying the next one and pressed each one firmly against the last. Sometimes I used nails when planks were especially warped. In the image above, the starboard side is completed and lightly sanded. The image below shows the deck complete and the wale bases applied. This was tricky, but after planking the ship it shouldn't bee too difficult. You can see I have been preparing the gunwales as glue sets, etc.


Not shown is the penciling in of the timbers and the nails. I used a decently hard graphite pencil and applied some pressure, measuring and lining up all markings based on the provided plans. This was tedious! 



To attach the wales, I soaked the balsa in tepid water for 12-13 minutes. (I chose this amount of time after running a couple tests on the scrap pieces.) Then I nailed them and let dry. The next day, I removed them, applied glue, and put them right back on. Worked fairly well, although I didn't get them quite as flush as I had hoped in places. 


The deck furniture on this kit seems to be straightforward and simple. Drilling the 1mm holes was the hardest part (I split a few boards doing this). Masking tape face-up helps with the scuttles:



Starting to come together:



More soon.


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Made some more progress and have a question. First, deck furniture is complete, I've framed the gun ports and put the bulwark timbers in.




My question involves opening the hole for the bowsprit. I started with a small bit and am progressively increasing the size. Unfortunately, the veneer is finicky and wants to tear out. Any ideas? Pic below.


Edited by Achu
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On 9/9/2017 at 9:37 AM, RichieG said:

would it make a difference if you drill from the outside toward the inside?

I've tried both, and yes, that is the better direction, but am still getting a bit of tear out. I've also now tried masking and drilling through the tape, and that is helping quite a bit.

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  • 2 months later...

Achu, how did you progress with your Albatros? im building the same kit and have just finished planking. i am contemplating on doing the wales before the deck...


Pavol stands for Paul, Pablo, Paolo etc. Please do not try to pronounce it, just call me Pav...

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 11/27/2017 at 1:49 PM, maaaslo said:

Achu, how did you progress with your Albatros? im building the same kit and have just finished planking. i am contemplating on doing the wales before the deck...

Hi, sorry for the late reply. I've been making incremental progress (pics soon). Absolutely place and plank the deck first, before applying the wales. 

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Small moments here and there to work on the ship. I have finished framing out the hull, wales, and keel.



Deck furniture is complete, although I'm not quite happy with the pinrails. Holy moly it is hard to get these holes centered.. I've been starting them with <1mm bits and then step up using 1.5, 2 and 2.5mm bits in a pin vice, but it's a challenge to keep them straight and not have the grain tear out between them. A light varnish before drilling would probably help here. 





Next step is attaching the rudder. Biggest challenge so far is shaping the tiller. I have turned a dremel into a makeshift lathe, but am wondering what type of tool to use to cut into the metal. It's very hard, but a carbide-tipped drill bit cut right through the first piece I tried. A metal file is not hard enough though. I'm searching for something in between.


image2 (1).JPG




image1 (3).JPG

image4 (1).JPG

Edited by Achu
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First of all, I think you've been doing great with this model. I got hung up on drilling those holes through some of the deck pieces; if the hole wasn't perfectly centered, it was too close to one side, and that tended to break through. (At the time, I only had one drill, so I didn't have the option to start small and work gradually up as you did, but that is the best way to go, I'm sure).

The brass straps that you have in the picture look nice. I assume that you're talking about having trouble with the  brass wire? As I recall, there wasn't any need to 'lathe' it; you just have to cut it to length (I used a regular hand-held wire cutter), and maybe round over the ends so they don't have any sharp edges. I just used some relatively rough sandpaper (I think it was 80 or 100 grit) to round over the edges, just laying the paper on the table and holding the wire by hand. The entire wire will be hidden inside the straps, so I don't see much point in doing anything other than that.


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