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Gunboat Philadelphia by Brucealanevans - Model Shipways FINISHED - 1/24

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Finished up the cap rail, the catheads, and the tholes, bits, and mooring bit. Put the cleats on the cap rail as well.

The forward facing 12 pounder sits a bit crooked in its carriage as you can see - I'll be fixing that later.

I'm going to depart from the instruction book sequence because I mean to do some detailing on deck supplies and equipment visible on the original Smithsonian plans, and that will be easier without working around the rigging and the canopy supports. So next will be the rudder hardware, the stove, and some other deck stuff.

Meanwhile tho I've tidied everything up and put the tools away as we are leaving on a 2 week vacation. Nice place to pause, as I've finished 5 of the 7 parts of the Ships in Scale series on this build.

Thanks for all the likes.

Does anyone have a favorite very thin cotton material for sails? Silkspan is not appropriate for this scale. Will probably use the same material for the awning - I don't like the stuff that came with the kit.

Hull finished-1.jpg

Hull finished-2.jpg

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I am watching this with great interest as I am considering it for a future project. How much detail would you say you have added over and above what is provided for in the kit. I was initially considering this for my second build due to the limited amount of hull planking. But after watching your progress I am not sure I am ready for anything this detailed yet.

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Noel, the stain was a mixture of 2 Minwax stains - Gunstock 1/3 and something darker 2/3. Can't find the can at the moment. Stains were suggested in the Ships in Scale series, and I liked how they looked. He was trying to match the look of the reproduction Philadelphia.

Art, to this point most of my additions have been cosmetic - I have added nails (fake, see above) to all planking and fake bolts (see above) to everything attached to the hull, such as the knees, the cathead, and so on. None of this is necessary for the build - I went into this looking to detail alot. The deck in the kit is in several large pieces which I cut into planks and (due to subsequent material loss for each cut) had to fabricate some extra material along the edges. Again, not necessary to the build and requires a precision saw.

Also, as has become my practice, I replaced all the blocks and line with material from Chuck's Syren Ship Modelling. Not necessary but I like the look.

I spend so much time building these that I don't mind spending extra to dress them up, but the stock model material would make a perfectly adequate model.

Added some cannon balls (not in the kit) and some small plastic hinges for the lockers (not in the kit).

I'll be fabricating stuff, such as making bricks for the stove from modelling material rather than the wood pieces the kit provides, as well as bailing scoop in the aft well, and equipment for the guns. Got some barrels too. All of this is eye candy and not necessary for a good looking model at your stage. That was my stage when I started with Picket Boat #1 and then the CW Morgan. I fell off the wagon when I made the Morgan's blubber rendering stove out of 2x3mm individual bricks with spacers for mortar.

The main thing is to have fun!

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Thanks for the info. As I said I will be watching with great interest to see what I can pick up. I might go down to Model Shipways next week ( I was actually planning a trip there today but found out they are closed on Fridays) and pick up my kit and follow a few steps behind you.


Go and enjoy your vacation and we will see you when you get back.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Back from a great Mediterranean cruise on the worlds largest ship with sails.

Back in the shipyard today -

Finished the stove. Bricks made with sculpy formed in the sheet the kit "bricks" of basswood were in. Modeling paste for mortar. Set up a charcoal fire in the stove. Suitably sloppy brick work!

Also added the pintels to the rudder.

Stove and Rudder-1.jpg

Stove and Rudder-2.jpg

Edited by Brucealanevans
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Finished and (temporarily) mounted the rudder with the tiller. Almost forgot to add the nails. That was a bit of a pain.

Added details to the forward cockpit which I felt might not be terribly accessible once I start the rigging. Glued the stove in place with a couple of implements, and added a number of half barrels and a box containing bar shot and balls, as shown on the Smithsonian plans.

For fun, added some fake water in the bailing well along with the water scoop also shown in the Smithsonian plans (which apparently were drawn to guide the construction of the replica).

Now, on to the rigging.

Rudder and Deck Details-5.jpg

Rudder and Deck Details-1.jpg

Rudder and Deck Details-4.jpg

Rudder and Deck Details-3.jpg

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A detour to make sails, which I've decided to add. The oars will be stored.

Need to address this before beginning the rigging, as the sails will need to be rigged to the yards prior to erecting the mast and adding the standing rigging. Will also need to order a few more blocks and more line as the model is not equipped for sails.

Also noted on the Smithsonian plans there is a boom to which the lower end of the mainsail is attached, so need to make that.

At this scale going to use cloth instead of silkspan. Dyed appropriate cloth with coffee and a few drops of black paint, and cut them out.

Will be doing some experimenting with the admiral on hemming them - she has a sewing machine foot that rolls and stitches a small seam, but we're not sure it will handle this thickness without fraying the edge. If the experiment fails, will turn and iron a 1/8 inch seam and likely sew it rather than use fabric glue like I did on the Morgan sails.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have made two sails, which are complete except for the boltropes. I don't like the look of sewing them on, as even at this scale the stitches would be out of scale. I have experimented with gluing them on with fabric glue, and will likely do that with a few stitches with very fine fly-tying thread to tack down at least the ends at the cringle. Experimented with white ink pen and pencil line to simulate panels in the sails and ended up opting for the latter. Corner reinforcements were cut out of dyed sail fabric and put on with fabric glue with pencil lines added.

The sails utilized some kit fabric I had from earlier kits, dyed with diluted coffee with a bit of black acrylic to get the greyish tinge as suggested by a build log on this site. I can't emphasize enough how this site and its wonderful contributing craftspersons enable erstwhile beginners like me to progress.

Note the mainsail boom below the mainsail. This is not to be attached to the mast but only to the corners of the sail. I wasn't going to add the sails if I couldn't produce reasonable looking sails, but I believe I'm happy with these and will go ahead.

While I was waiting for the admiral to get back from a trip to sew the sail hems, I put the forestay spreader together. Unfortunately it's very slightly asymmetric, but I can live with it. From this point on there is no major construction, just rigging, canopy, and deck detail things. 

Once I get the boltropes on I can bend the sails to the yards and attach all the block pendants, etc, mount the yards to the mast(s) with their rope parrels, and them stick the mast in. Then on to the rigging.

I've been struggling with how to construct the fascines (bundles of wood used to provide more protection for the crew) at an appropriate scale. The 1/16 inch dowels I bought were actually closer to 3/32 and are simply too big (darn!). I experimented with 1/32 x 1/32 strips rounded through a drawplate, and discovered that a bundle of 40 (!) gave me the correct scale size for a bundle of 9" diameter with 1/2 - 1" sticks. I think I will be making fascines during boring parts of long winter nights (I live in Minnesota and it's acting like winter early this year.

fascine trial-1.jpg

Sails & Spreader-1.jpg

Sails & Spreader-2.jpg

Edited by Brucealanevans
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I've finished the rigging, except for the yard braces and the mainsail boom, which will be added at the very end. The rigging varies from the kit instructions. Firstly, due to what is necessary to handle the sails. I have used the Smithsonian plans for that. Secondly, those plans also show the topmast shrouds passing down to deck level and fastening through bullseyes tethered to the lower deadeye strops. So I did that.

I might add parenthetically that this rigging job was made much easier than my previous jobs due to equipment overload:

1. Michael Mott's third hand, and especially the wood clamp arms that are perfect for holding line tightly for seizing without damaging the line

2. TWO very good tweezers to hand small line

3. Chuck's seizing method - in my hands, a series of closely spaced overhand knots alternating above and below, pulled tight. At the end (4-5 loops in this case) these can be slid down snugly with careful use of a tweezer. followed by some dilute white glue and when dry trimming the ends and compressing the loops.

4. Small electrical clips (the plastic kind with a retractable hook) to hold lines together when seizing if necessary.


Will be moving on the the fore stanchions and rail and rigging the (already constructed) anchors next.

Rigging Complete-6.jpg

Rigging Complete-5.jpg

Rigging Complete-4.jpg

Rigging Complete-3.jpg

Rigging Complete-2.jpg

Rigging Complete-1.jpg

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Thanks John, I appreciate that. One of the bits of fun working in this scale is the ability to push the envelope with detailing.

Downside: those Smithsonian plans were expensive, but I could not have done much of this without them and their wealth of detail. Not enough detail in the two books about the Philadelphia I got.

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Hope this is allowed, please remove if not. 


This link may help you for a free download for John Bratten's book which has a lot of good information in it about the gunboat









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Minwax classic Grey stain wiped on, sanded unevenly harder in traffic areas then another very light coat. 

I like the look too. In this case, since this is not a “pretty” boat, basswood’s tendency to take stain unevenly enhances the look for the deck and the hull. It gives a nice beat up look which is what I’m going for. 

Edited by Brucealanevans
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Put up the canopy frames and the racks for gunnery equipment for the swivels and the 9 pounders. The former rack was indicated on the Smithsonian plans but not the kit plans.

Making the gunnery equipment took as long as making and installing the canopy frames, but with the racks staring me in the face I went ahead with that equipment and installed them in the racks. I also put (not yet glued) a rammer/sponge and ladle/worm in the foredeck for the 12 pounder while I was in that production mode.

I have some detail (mainly chests, buckets, and barrels) to add to the deck that will be under the battens/rolled canopty/sweep rack and sweeps so will do that before moving on to the battens over the canopy frames. I think I will want to install the fascines prior to that as well to facilitate their lashings to the frames without obstruction.

All of the significant construction is now done - I can see the end in sight. Making the fascines will, however, be a real PITA. 160 1/32 x 1/32 strips await rounding with a drawplate and cutting, gathering, and binding into the fascines, several of which will need to be bent into curves prior to installation. Thankfully these are all specified well in the Smithsonian plans as well as how they are fastened.


I have humbly added a "kit bash" tag to this build log given the addition of sails and detailing.

Canopy Frame and Gun Equipment-2.jpg

Canopy Frame and Gun Equipment-3.jpg

Canopy Frame and Gun Equipment-4.jpg

Edited by Brucealanevans
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I have finished all the deck detail now. Playing with placement - will fasten things down tomorrow and start on the fascines.

Making powder bags and hollowing out a third party barrel to accept them was the most tedious part of this.

I did use some third party boxwood buckets, but had to thin them down from the inside to get the thickness to some approximation of scale.

Turns out a black sharpie works great on the elevated "hoops" of commercial barrels, after "aging" them with a vinegar soak which removed the shiny finish. I wish the barrels were slightly bigger as they are a bit too small for quarter and half barrels at this scale, but just acceptable.

Deck Detail Complete-1.jpg

Deck Detail Complete-2.jpg

Edited by Brucealanevans
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Here are two photos of the model by Sam Parent of MN from the 2015 contest at the WI Maritime Museum.  This model won best of show in addition to a gold medal and best novice model.  It was Sam's first ship model.  There are a lot of great details added to Sam's model. 

He made the bricks for the stove of the same material I used in the magazine series but used the basswood laser cut form that the wood "bricks"were cut out of - filled with the clay, baked and pushed out of the form.  A lot easier than the method I used and much more uniform.  Glad the articles are helping.




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Thanks for your comments.

Your articles were invaluable to me in this build. No more to say than that.

Sam's model is an inspiration - his craftsmanship is a cut above mine, but (waxing philosophical) there are always those a bit or more than a bit better than one at any endeavor, and so my goal is for each successive build (this is my fourth) to be better and cleaner with fewer boo-boos and more eye candy detail. I'm pleased with this build and suspect it will be done within the next couple of weeks if my plans for the fascines work out.

One comment on your article: you noted the failure of blackening solution for the guns. I suspect you know by now that britannia metal (and pewter) can't be blackened with that stuff. The only thing I've found is a pewter/britannia blackener from BlueJacket. But frankly, the airbrushing worked so well on the cannons that I prefer that.

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Since I'm approaching the end of this build, I've begun arranging the next. Confederacy and Granado still on the shelf, but my head was turned after a trip to Malta.

I've read a lot about "The Grand Siege" in the 16th century and decided I wanted to build a war galley as sailed by the Knights of St. John of Malta.

I've ordered Daniel Dusek's model of La Real and will modify it accordingly. I found some plan views and illustrations online to help. As best I can tell at this point some changes to the fore and aft superstructure (and a change of flags) should do the trick to a reasonable if not totally accurate degree. That will be a long and complicated build. Looking forward to the kit's arrival to check it out.

Edited by Brucealanevans
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 Fascines (ad hoc additional protection for the crew) done and tied in place. A big step which took 3 days of work. When all was said and done I used the 1/32 square strips without rounding each one (of 160) off with a drawplate. The difference in appearance was minimal and I had just enough strips (each fascine contains 40) so breakage would have been problematic. Aged them with Micro Mark "Weather-It".

Tomorrow the top battens for the canopy frame go on.




Edited by Brucealanevans
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