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SS Michelangelo 1962 by shipmodel - FINISHED - 1/350 scale

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Hi all –


Thanks for the conversations and the likes, as always.   And thanks for looking in on my little diversion.  It was an exercise in water sculpture, and reasonably successful, although I have a ways to go to make it that spray truly realistic.  


When the last installment ended, the hull had been glued up and shaped.  The wood had been hardened, ready for final finishing.58e9aab54793b_8-roughcutlayout.thumb.jpg.d9f2221d0424735a6f47dd66024fa897.jpg


The next step was to bring the hull to a smooth surface, ready for the color coats.  I first filled the pores of the wood with a slurry of plaster of paris.  Here it is shortly after being painted on



Before it dried and became opaque I laid in a 1/16” wide strip of tape along the waterline as I did here on the Doria model.


With the plaster dry it was gently sanded with a medium grit sanding sponge to smooth and fair the planes and surfaces.  Here is how it looked at the bow.  The waterline tape was removed at this point, but it left a very shallow but indelible depression along the length of the hull that will guide my painting later on.


What followed were many refinements to those hull planes and surfaces, done with multiple layers of spray primer.  The first several were of grey, sandable primer which filled in the deepest of the sanding scratches.  For preference I use Krylon in the rattle can.  It is fast-drying and builds up a sufficiently thick layer with only a few coats.  But it is getting harder to find.  Even Amazon runs out from time to time.  I have found that the comparable product from Ace Hardware is almost identical.


Medium and fine grit sanding sponges smoothed out the grey primer, then coats of white primer were sprayed on.  This is a much different formulation, not just the color.  It goes on thinner and dries to a much harder surface.  Finer and finer grits of sandpaper were used, ending with a rubdown with a plastic scouring pad to burnish the surface.  Much will be done to the hull, and it will get carved, drilled and sections ground out, but it was nice to have a smooth canvas to work on.


The first addition to the hull was the bulwark at the bow.  This has to be flared considerably to match the steep angle of the hull at the nose.  To get this shape, I wrapped a wide strip of card stock around the bow and taped it in place, making sure that it lay tight and flat all around the bow.  Where it rose above the deck, I penciled in a line.  Using a flat piece of scrap as a spacer, a second line was drawn at the height of the finished bulwark.  The card was removed and a third line was drawn, freehand, about ¼” below the deck line to account for where it will be attached to the hull.  Several were made and discarded before one was acceptable.  The finished template shape looked like this.


This shape was cut out of a piece of 0.020” styrene sheet.  I made sure to make the first cuts overlarge, then it was slowly refined by repeatedly offering it up to the desired location and trimming as needed.  A shallow step was cut, carved, and ground into the hull and the piece laid in and secured with gel superglue.  The edges were filled and faired with Squadron white putty.   Here is the bow bulwark piece before final fairing into the hull.   The difference in sheen tells me where the putty still needs more refining.   The bulwark is still a bit oversize at the top edge, which will not be refined until the detailing process begins.


This was my first time using Squadron putty.  It is a solvent based gel which comes in a tube like toothpaste and is squeezed out in much the same way.  Because it is solvent based it dries quickly, but the fumes are a bit harsh, so have some good ventilation where you work with it.  The other problem is that it shrinks substantially as it dries.  Some deep depressions had to have several layers applied before it built up enough to sand back to a smooth surface.


Next, I work on the stern.


Be well



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Hi Druxey - 


Yes, I have.  It works well, but dries harder than the wood, since it is meant to be used on autos with metal or fiberglass surfaces.  This makes it tricky to sand without dishing the wood around it.  It feathers out nicely, but not much better than plaster or other fillers.  Besides, I could only find it in a fairly large tin, and the last one I bought dried out before I could use it all.  Ounce for ounce, of course, it is much less expensive than the Squadron putty.  


The other issue, on this model, is that the final paint color will be white.  The red of Bondo is hard to hide without more coats of primer than I wanted to add at this stage of the hull finishing.


A good idea, but not for this use this time.






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Thanks for your reasons for using putty on this model, Dan. Here in Canada we can buy Bondo in tube form, so it doesn't dry out - unless you forget to tighten the cap! I find difference in density of materials no problem, providing I use shaped anding sticks. Obviously you don't want to use heavy coats of paint on a small-scale model to conceal the color of Bondo.

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3 hours ago, mtaylor said:

I'm continually in awe at the levels of support everyone gives and gets here at MSW.


So am I Mark! 

It seems to me that the people in MSW are more like family rather than fellow members.

Family members all over the globe.

Havagooday to all


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Hi all –


I hope everyone has had a nice Easter, Passover, or other spring holiday of your choosing.  Thanks, as always, for the comments and the likes.  It is so nice to get feedback from our modeling family – both the in-laws and the outlaws.  You can decide which you are.


The last segment concluded with me working on the bow to get the shapes right and the surface smooth, as well as cutting and installing the flared bulwark pieces.


 While I continued to refine, smooth, and fair the bow, I turned to the challenges of the stern.  As seen in the photo, it has a smooth, rounded, but flared shape with two decks that are each pierced with large openings for viewing.  The lower ones are not as tall compared with the upper ones, or rather, the bulwarks are higher, as can be seen from the postures of the people looking out.  In the upper openings the bulwarks are lower, but a single open railing is mounted on top for safety.  This same solid bulwark and upper railing system is an almost universal design feature of the ship, and can be seen as well above the topmost bulwark at the stern.  The lower deck also has a number of round and elongated hawse holes for mooring lines, so the bulwarks have to be pierced for them as well.   


All of this meant that the model’s stern would have to be some sort of pierced shell, like a lacework Easter egg.  To get that shell I first tried to drape-mold styrene in one sheet.  I had already built up a solid stern block which I hoped to use as the form.  I screwed it down onto the hull block and made sure all the edges met.


I then put a sheet of 0.020” styrene in a bath of simmering water.  While it softened I heated the stern of the hull with a hair dryer.  When I thought everything had reached a workable temperature I pulled the plastic out of its bath and pulled it down on the hull form.  It did not behave.  Pleats and wrinkles formed which could not be flattened.  I tried several more times, making the plastic sheet hotter in an oven, moving around the points where I pulled on the plastic, etc.  Ultimately I only ended up with half a dozen sheets of unusable plastic which had to be discarded.  I will not embarrass myself by posting photos of the trash.


I decided that I would have to build up and pierce each deck separately, and then work on the seam between them.  This would be slower, but used techniques that I was already familiar with.  I first had to establish the shape of the stern with just the deckhouses and decks stacked together to get a feel for the internal structures.  They were cut according to the deck plans, but a little oversize, and were temporarily screwed to each other and the hull.


These pieces were faired to each other with a sanding block, checking frequently to see that they created the flared shape desired.  When I was satisfied, the upper wooden pieces were taken off, leaving only the lowest deck house and deck.  A piece of cardstock was used to make a pattern for a curved piece of plastic sheet, much like the one that was created for the bow bulwark.   


The plastic was cut oversize and then refined by trial and trimming until it fit well.  As at the bow, a rabbet was cut into the solid hull to bed the edge of the plastic into.  The piece was secured with gap filling cyano.  When the glue was solid the gaps at the edges were filled with Squadron white putty in several layers to build up the filler to compensate for shrinkage as it dried.  Then the surface was sanded flush with the hull, with special care being taken at the edges.  You can see where my smoothing process went through the layers of white primer and into the grey primer below.  The color change proved to be a good warning that I should not go deeper in that spot.  Then the locations of the window openings were drawn on the plastic in pencil, and the centers were ground out with a small burr, staying well away from the lines.  A sharp #11 knife was used to carefully whittle away the remaining plastic until the openings were the proper sizes and shapes. The hawse holes were done in a similar fashion.



 From there I repeated the process for the upper deck.  But first, the lower deckhouse and the underside of the lower deck were painted and permanently installed.  At this point I was committed.  It was no longer easy to remove the stern pieces and redo them.  As before, a cardstock pattern was created, plastic sheet was cut and fit, glued into the rabbet and faired to the hull and the lower deck bulwark.  The viewing openings were drawn on, pierced and whittled away as before. 


In the previous photo you can still see some spots where additional refinement and whittling of the lower openings is needed.  This was a continuing process and done very carefully.  A slip here might mean that the entire piece would have to be stripped out and replaced.  Fortunately, it ultimately came out as I wanted.  After a coat of primer it is, I believe, quite difficult to tell that it was pieced together.


 So here is the current state of work, with the rough superstructure laid on.  It sure will be great when I can replace the plumbing pipe funnels for the lacework cages that Bob made up.  Can’t wait.


But there are many more miles to go before I can reach that point, and many more postings.  Until the next one –


Be well




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Dan, nice work on the stern. As I was reading it, I thought of a technique that RC car model era use to make car bodies for their RCs out of plexiglass. The build a mold and a box with holes in the top that has a vacuum port in it. Then the plastic is heated to the point that it is soft and place on top of the mold. Then a shop is used to pull the plastic over the mold. I have seen some YouTube videos on it and it looks fairly simply. I'll try to find a link to and post it for you if like. 


Just a thought that hat might be handy in future builds

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Hi all - 


Thanks so much for the compliments.  There is a lot more experimentation on this ship than others at larger scales.  Glad you think I have succeeded. 


Kenny - yes, I was thinking along those lines too, but getting a vacuum around something the size of the model was a problem I couldn't figure out.  I will use your method for the lifeboats if I can't source satisfactory ones.





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Hello all - 


Just a quick photo for those who could not make it to the Joint Clubs Conference in New London last Saturday.  5908c277ab9a5_modelatjointclubs.thumb.jpg.47f3b08cd8e0c3a8b5135698e41277c4.jpg


Bob Marvin brought me the funnel cages from Shapeways.  They were perfect.  Here they are, temporarily set on the rough cut superstructures.  They need no sanding, just priming and painting. In the fullness of time I will fill them with the multiple tubes and struts of the funnel pipes.


 As you can see, there has been some more progress on the hull, but I have not had time to write up the log.


More soon.





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Hi all –


Thanks again for the compliments and likes.  I have to say that the questions and discussions always stimulate my mental juices.  Keep them coming, and please don’t worry about pointing out things that can be improved.  It is always better to hear about them during the building process when they can be corrected.


The last segment ended with the hull smoothed and primed.  Next came the process of detailing it.  In the two photos below you can see that the surface was very smooth.  Construction was done with welded plates, edge joined rather than having strakes of overlapping in-and-out plates as earlier ocean liners had.  This meant that the hull would be simpler, but what was done would have to be more precise.  This was especially true for the two lines of portholes.  Which are the most obvious features other than the ship name and the green detail stripe. 



Close examination of these and other photos, as well as the plans, indicated that the lines of portholes followed the curve of the sheer.  None of the photographs of the portholes show any detail, no matter how close the photograph was taken or how much I enlarged it.   They simply look like holes in the hull.  I am sure that there were small lips around them, but I never could see any.


The first step was to offer up the plans to the hull and to compare the porthole locations on the paper, one by one, to the portholes that I could see in the photos.  It turned out that the plans did not show some 15 portholes on either side of the hull.   They were marked on the plans for future use.


Then the plans were cut right through the top line of portholes and taped to the hull.  As you can see, the line on the plans wanders a bit up and down, so the plans could not be used “out of the box.”  Using a compass, the distance from the sheer edge of the hull block to the first line of portholes was set and a light line drawn along the length of the hull.  An awl was used to make starter holes along the pencil line at each porthole location. 


At the bow the flare of the hull pulled the plans up, so the portholes would have ended up too high on the hull.  The curves also made it impossible for me to just use the compass to set the line.


My solution was to apply 1/16” black striping tapes just below the porthole locations.  I could apply them, eyeball them, and adjust them as needed to get two matching sets of straight lines on both sides of the hull.  The plans were then used to set the horizontal locations for the portholes, and starter holes were made with the awl.



I next had to decide how the portholes were going to be modeled.  Since they had no detail, I could have simply made holes in the hull.  I tried it on some scrap, but the edges of the holes often came out ragged.  This was unacceptable.  A sleeve of some sort would solve this.  In prior models I had used small brass grommets, but I could not find any which were small enough.  They had to be around 18” in scale, or about 0.05” on the model, for the interior diameter.  The length was less important, but something around 3/16” would be good for ease of handling. 


I could have sourced some brass tubing and cut off individual pieces.  I even have a powered cutoff saw that uses an abrasive disc rather than a saw blade.  But making over 500 of them without burrs or flash which would need additional cleanup was not something I wanted to try.  Instead, I found 1mm x 4mm fluted brass beads on the Fire Mountain Gems website.  This was a perfect size, but when they came in I saw that they were not perfectly round.  The fluting process turned them into rounded pentagons.  The difference was only visible under magnification, so I decided to use them.


The outside diameter of the beads was 0.060” at its largest, so an 0.062” drill was used to make all of the holes in the hull.


A toothpick was the perfect size to pick up a bead and slide it part way into a drilled hole, leaving them proud of the surface.  The friction fit between the beads and the holes was probably enough to secure them, but the sides were painted with dilute white glue to be sure.


Then a small tack hammer was used to set them down flush with the hull.  Before the glue set the line was eyeballed and any beads that were slightly high or low were nudged into proper place.


The hull was given another coat of primer to blend in the portholes and fill any small gaps around the beads.   When I was satisfied the upper hull was given a final coat of gloss white.  The paint was left for 24 hours to dry, then the upper hull was masked at the waterline with tape and paper towels.  The lower hull was painted an OSHA red that closely matched my best color photos of the hull.


At this point it was only a few days till the Joint Clubs Conference on April 29, so I did a few things a little out of sequence to make a better impression.  Photoetched brass doors from Gold Medal Models and Tom’s Modelworks were painted white and applied to the hull following the locations on the plans and photos.  Self-adhesive green striping tapes were applied to the hull.  The one at the waterline is 1/8” wide, while the upper decorative one is 1/16” wide. 


These green stripes are only temporary.  Although they are the right color, they are a bit too thick and the upper one is a bit too wide.  The thinner tapes do not come in the right color, so I may have to take thin white tapes and paint them.  More on this later.  Similarly, the windows here at the stern are paper place-holders until I can make up the custom decals that ultimately will be used.    


At the bow I can see that some touch-up work is needed, but nothing that can’t be accomplished with a bit of elbow grease.


So here she is at the conference again.  The prominent line of windows of the promenade deck have been printed on pieces of paper to test the fit.  The paper ones will be replaced with laser-cut ones done in either 0.020" styrene or a thin plastic-impregnated circuitboard material.   Unfortunately, she has to be set aside for a bit so I can complete the QAR.  I will pick her up again when I can.


Until then, be well.








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Hey Dan,


Sometimes I take for granted that I can just see the Michelangelo at our meetings, but I've really enjoyed reading through this log, so far.  There have been a number of ingenious solutions to vexing problems.  I'll be following along.  She's really shaping up beautifully, Dan!

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Hello again to all –


I hope everyone had a good Father’s Day, whether you are a father or not.  Between teaching swimming to grandkids and cooking on the grill I found a little time to work on the Michelangelo.  Here is a short post.


At last posting the portholes were being finalized and some extra details were temporarily added to make a better impression at the Northeast Joint Clubs Show.


After the show the green stripes were removed, as were the anchors and railings.  The lower hull was masked at the waterline and I got to work on the portholes.  Here is how one section looked at the time.  You can see that when they were adjusted up or down as needed to get a straight line they left small depressions around the brass beads.  You can even see, looking critically, that the bead openings are rounded pentagons and not perfectly circular.  Neither defect was very obvious, except in close-up photos, but I wanted to correct them if possible.


I first took some white primer and decanted it from the rattle can, leaving it to thicken for a few minutes.  With a small brush I filled each depression, mounding the paint up to allow for shrinkage as it dried.  When it was fully hard the portholes were sanded flush with fine grit paper wrapped around a hardwood block.  After sanding, the upper hull was spray painted with two coats of gloss white.  This gave me a beautifully smooth finish, which I wanted, but the paint filled some of the openings in the beads, and left others visibly lopsided.  Taking a 0.045” drill mounted in a pin vice, each porthole was opened by hand to a scale dimension of 16”.  All 846 of them!  Now they were round rather than pentagonal and matched the rimless look of the portholes in my photographs of the ship.   Sometimes the correction of a problem leads to a better result than if the problem had never arisen.


The next problem to tackle was the windows along the length of the promenade deck.  They are a very eye-catching feature of the ship, and I wanted to try to do them justice. 


 Detailed photos show that the windows are inset into deep frames, with two visible horizontal lines appearing in the lower half of the openings.  These are probably protective bars behind the glass, but it is difficult to tell.   Sometimes I get distracted by the attractiveness of the family in the lower photo.



Working from the overall photograph I divided the promenade into seven sections of windows.  The five center ones were made up of identical repeating sets of 3-4-3-4 windows, while the forward and end ones had irregular patterns.  The seven had to total exactly 804mm long to fit the space on the model.  At Joint Clubs I had fashioned some paper place-holders for them.  This was not only to make a better impression, but as a trial run for my layout of the frames.  On paper this was not too difficult.  Using CorelDraw I laid them out over a cropped section of the plans.  The program made it easy to adjust and replicate a prototype window, and to form the copies into sets and the sets into sections, then mirror them to create the windows for the other side of the ship.  A few tweaks and reprints, and the paper sections laid out exactly.  I also took the opportunity to lay out some window sections for the upper decks and bridge.    


Now to make them out of a more durable substance.  To match the rest of the model they were made from white styrene sheet 0.020” thick.  In the past this would have meant cutting out each opening individually, but I was fortunate that fellow NY Shipcraft Guild member, Charlie Zobel, had access to a laser cutter that accepted the CorelDraw file.   Unfortunately, the laser did not cut equally in all areas of the sheet.  Sometimes it did not go through, and sometimes it did.   Increasing the laser power a bit might have finished all the cuts, but there were several scorch marks and at some corners the plastic looked a little melted, so increasing the power was not tried.   


I finished the cuts with a #10 blade and popped out the unwanted windows.  This left me with somewhat rough edges along all sides of the openings, but a bit of sanding with a shaped emery board smoothed them out.  Since there are 186 windows, this did take a few hours of tedious work, so I would have to say that this first attempt at laser cutting styrene was not a complete success.  Nonetheless, I was happy with the finished sections, and when tested on the model, they fit within 1mm of the perfect length.


To install them, the side of the promenade deck was painted gloss white, then overpainted with flat black.  When the paint was dry a compass with a steel tip was used to scribe the two lines through the black to expose the white.  The deck piece was set up on its side and the styrene segments were laid over this base from bow to stern using a slow-setting epoxy.  The long open time allowed me to adjust each segment to the deck and to each other.  Here the final section is about to be installed on the starboard side. 


When I was satisfied with the placement of the sections they were left alone for the epoxy to harden overnight before the process was repeated on the port side windows. 


Many additional details have to be added to the promenade deck before it can be secured to the hull, but by then it was time for me to get the burgers on the grill, so that was as far as I got.


More soon








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Hi Nils - 


Thanks so much for the compliment.  I think it is coming along nicely too.


You seem to have duplicated my entire post before putting in your reply.  Could you edit the post by taking it out and just leaving your comment?  I don't want the log to end up too long.





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Thanks, Keith - 


Even where the laser did not completely cut, the channels that it made were invaluable in guiding my knife blade.  After that it was just a matter of magnification.  The first thing I do when starting to work is to put on my optivisor.  The last thing I do is take it off.



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