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DRAGON CLASS SAILBOAT by gil middleton - Billing Boats - 1:12 scale

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Having accidentally deleted the previous posts, this is a new start.


Over 70 years ago, I thought that the Dragon had the most beautiful lines of modern sailboats, and my opinion hasn't changed since.  Sure, there were many boats that caught my attention from 8 meters to J boats, but to me,  the Dragon had the lines of a classic sailboat before rating rules dictated changes such as plumb bows, reversed transoms, etc.  I've sailed and raced a Penguin, Flatty (Geery 18), Coronado 15, Lightning, Soling, 26' sloop (Halliday) and Cal 40 but never a Dragon.  Building the model is my vicarious way of gaining that experience.  My last model, HMS Victory was a six year adventure, but at 83, another long project doesn't seem to make sense (I'd like to see the end result). 


There are only a few Dragon models on MSW.  Cap'n Bob pleased his wife with a second build, 1:48 scale and Dee-Dee recorded a brief but detailed version of the hull.  Borge used the Billing kit to build a cruising version with fine detail and exquisite metal work.  I haven't the experience to replicate Borge's metal work, nor are metal lathes, drill presses, etc. considered proper decor in our den/office (condo).  I've had a Billing Dragon kit for 20 or more years and it supplied the basics for my build.  More on the kit quality later.


The Dragon was designed by Johan Anker (Norway) in 1929, gaining world wide appreciation as well as Olympic Games status.  Specifications are a fractional sloop rig (Bermuda rig), overall length of 29.17' (8.89m),displacement of 3740 lb. (1696 Kg.), molded finn keel of 2200 lb. (998 Kg.) and an upwind sail area of 286 sq.ft.   image42.jpg.b6aa52eac1c1900c3921730b871dcf13.jpg



Other designs with similar sail areas include the Star, Etchells 22 and 5.5 M class.

The venerable Star boat carries about the same sail area for it's 22.9' (6.92m) hull and less than half the displacement.



The 5.5 M was designed as a developmental class as a slightly smaller and less expensive alternative to the 6 meter, at 31' (9.5m) displacing 3700 - 4400 lb.


5.5 M58d6f9c95be98_5_5M.JPG.4a0a6865c40b19e2ff4ea25c246ad40f.JPG

The Etchells 22 is perhaps the most similar design to the Dragon.  Designed in 1966, the Etchells has an overall length of 30'6" (9.3m), displacement of 3324 lb. (about 400 lb. less than a Dragon) along with a finn bulbus keel and a reverse transome.  The sail plan is very similar to the Dragon noting the location of the fore stay in the on deck photo.



Next, the kit and beginning of the build.  Cheers, Gil







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A few comments on the Billing kit. To be fair, It has been on the shelf for 20 to 30 years and may have been improved. However, I would give it 2 stars out of 5.  Instructions were minimal and hardware not consistent with building a replica.  I've never warmed up to printed decks.  It was used as a template and mahogany inserts.  Rigging (standing and running), one roll of string, discarded. Planking too thick and too wide.  Used left over from previous models.  Having said that, I'm probably having more fun than if it were a five star kit.


The following photos are a typical  start, aligning bulkheads with the keel, setting the sheer and getting the bones right.




Aligning the bulkheads.





A very tenuous junction of the stern portion, aft of the rudder post, with the forward section.  Stability was gained only by the addition of stringers.




Adding stringers



Slight sheer is apparent.



Next up.  Planning the deck.

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another older kit!   these are like the first production........not laser cut,  printed decks.......just like the Nordkap I built.    I used to do customer service for Tom,  back when he owned Billing USA.   the printed decks was one of the biggest complaints :)   good that the wood wasn't warped........or worse........PETRIFIED!!!!! :D  


the hull frame looks great Gil :) 

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Another Dragon.  When I lived aboard, there were two Dragons docked nearby.  There was nothing sweeter than to see them slide out of their slip and head out to have fun in the Pacific.  When I started model building, a 12" long Dragon was one of the first boats I built.  My brother came to visit and I gave it to him.  After he left my wife, "she who must be obeyed", said, "That was my favorite boat."  So I had no choice but to build another.  My brother's was built as a racing boat, my wife's was built as an early pleasure cursing boat with a cabin.  It will be fun watching another Dragon going together.



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John, Thanks again.

Popeye, Only just realized that you are the Billing guru; eight Billing models in your portfolio.  I'll bring all my questions to you!  But it is more fun making your own parts than simply following instructions.


Bob, I enjoyed your build log on the Dragon 2. Your wife has good taste.  Also enjoy your SS Mariefred.  It seems rather similar to our "Mosquito Fleet" that plied the inland waters of Puget Sound over a hundred years ago.


Kevin, It's been over a year since I've been on MSW and what beautiful progress you've made on the Victory. Even shed a tear for your broken job boom however your repair would make Jack Aubrey proud. Permission to follow the log? Since there seems to be no other Dragons in progress, I didn't think anyone would even notice. Old friends are always welcome.


Spyglass,  I envy your experience in Dragons. Feel free to advise or correct my mistakes. I understand the problem with all that beautiful varnish. Our present boat is 71' with LOTS OF VARNISH. And it's hard to varnish in the rain.

Cheers, Gil

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me???????  I don't follow the instructions........I just look at the pictures!! :D  :D      it's hard to follow Billing's instructions......they can be rather vague.   I guess that's why I don't mind them so much....they make one think,  and allows the imagination to kick in.   I have no doubt that you have the direction you want to take with her all figured out ;)    are you going to do the mahogany laminate?    

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Popeye,  I like your style.  My Dragon will not look much like the plans.  I plan to use the mahogany for insets on the planked deck.


Pete48,  I think I have found my reference source. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful gallery of your work, particularly the building of the Etchells 22.  As a professional, your work reminded me of Ken Gardiner's models of the America's Cup contenders.  They were done with such detail that if a Schaffer block served the original yacht, it did so on the model.  I was set to make a pilgrimage to his  Newport Beach, CA shop when I learned he had retired and then passed away in 2013.


Cheers,  Gil

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I did not want to use the printed deck and instead cut out the mahogany to fit with the planked deck.  Borge used the same technique but was smart enough to cut the deck plan into four parts.  I thought I could do it one piece, but you guessed it, I ended up with four pieces.  However, the glue lines didn't show and an insert was placed to repair a split section.






Before filling in the defects, I experimented with stains. The mahogany was a rather dull brown and I wanted  the beauty of red mahogany.

The red mahogany stain (upper of four) gave the color I wanted.




However that left the defects in the deck to be filled.  58e02361e645a_IMG_2325R.jpg.889459e1761b4c004afeb893a9fcf8b9.jpg


I learned from refinishing our real boat that sanding lightly with emory paper in a slury of varnish (acrylic poly dries too fast) fill the gaps with stained sawdust for a uniform appearance.  Attempting this before staining means the repaired areas will not take up the stain.





One can gain additional filler by staining identical scrap wood and using the sawdust.



The result after 10 to 12 coats of acrylic polyurethane.



The mahogany deck inserts before and after staining and finishing.



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you did a super job of blending in that repair!   I use white glue and sand while it's still wet {tacky}.   the over lay looks very nice.......are you going to fill it in with blonde planking?   one source for mahogany stain is Billing.......the paint line they sell is pretty good,  and I was lucky to have gotten a few bottles of the stain.  I used it on my Half Moon build......I still have another bottle of so.   I like the design.......gonna be a sweet sheer deck! ;)


the project looks great so far.........your tempting me ;)

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Hi Gil,

It's good to see you back modelling. Boats that is....


I did a small sailing yacht myself after the Unicorn, and it was the "funnest" build I ever did. It's refreshing to do a simple kit after a major build and the experience is equally rewarding. Have fun with your Dragon, and I'll follow along.





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I just found the most comfortable chair and following along you build.

You have come far with the built. And I like the varnishing you are doing.


Considering the last ship, you are going to have this one done in a heart beat.




Some extra history regarding this sailing class.

The Dragon class was initiated by the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club, who gave Norwegian yacht designer Johan Anker a brief for a cheap cruising/racing boat with about 20 square metres (220 sq ft) of sail area.[4] After the Second World War, the boat was considered slow, and genoa and spinnaker was introduced.[4]

Since 2008 the Dragon is one of the Vintage Yachting Classes at the Vintage Yachting Games.

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A little delay to recover from a computer crash.

Thank you all for adding to the fun.

Popeye, Yes, I plan to use bass wood for the deck to simulate the deck in the first photo of this log.  It looks like clean weathered teak to me.

Peter, I agree.  Approaching each challenge once is rather relaxing instead of repeating some 3000 times (rat lines and copper plates).

Per,  Thanks for the additional information on the Dragon's history.  I'm old enough to think of the Dragon, Soling, Flying Dutchman and 5.5 M classes as contemporary designs.

     Love your Solo Ruff.

John and Bob, A fun little project like this does move along a wee bit faster than the Victory build.


Cheers, Gil



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  • 2 weeks later...

A bit of pneumonia does interfere with progress, but then one has something to do when you can't do much else.

The bulkheads needed considerable adjustments to prepare the "bones" for planking.  Shims added and moderate sanding.



Followed by rough first planking at the keel.


I felt the walnut planking supplied was too wide and thick and instead chose 1/32" Taqnganika58f7e022059ed_IMG_2347R.jpg.24d3c469b2ce57b1bccd2fa457e5f219.jpg

Soaking planks in a wallpaper soaker.



Knowing I planned to paint the hull, I took some liberties in planking.  No rabbeting at the stem and crossover planks leading up to the tern. (shown later)





Planks glued at bulkheads and edge glued.  Bulkheads faired for double planking at keel.  She begins to show her lines.

Cheers, Gil


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Eddie, Welcome aboard.  And John, You're always welcome.  With the preponderance of classic ships on MSW, I didn't think anyone would notice a little Dragon.

Popeye, The planking was simply left over from the Victory, but I liked it better than the thicker walnut.  I used plain water since little bending was necessary with the Dragon's sweet lines.  On the Victory, Constitution and Cutty Sark, I used a bit of ammonia and steamed the planks.

Dave, Nice to hear from you.  Your Bluenose took a great deal more finesse.  I almost started the Bluenose, but this seemed like a fun little project. Perhaps the next one. 

Cheers, Gil

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Grant, So nice to be back among old friends on MSW. I looked at your log of Dumas runabout.  Could not help but read through the full nine pages, enjoying the ideas and innovations along the way.  The wheel and chrome plating is spectacular. Way above my pay grade. Living in a condo and at 83, I'll never move on to lathes and drill presses, but thoroughly enjoy your experimentation as to what works best.  Great to hear from you.  Cheers, Gil

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