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US Brig Niagara by Ben752 – Model Shipways - Scale 1:64 - First wooden ship build


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After doing a fair bit of research on MSW and thinking critically about my abilities, I've settled on the USS Niagara as my first wooden model ship.  My experience with wooden models has been limited to RC planes and the tissue covered balsa variety.  I must say, laster cut parts are significantly better than the stamped balsa variety!

 

I began by constructing a building board out of 3/4" MDF.  To hold the keel perpendicular to the board I designed a frame and clamping system out of Makerbeam (a small extruded aluminum t-slot profile with 4 faces) and attached it to the board via countersunk holes through the back of the board.

 

 

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Hello Ben, welcome to the Niagara club.  I'll be following your progress.  I've recently completed the Charles W Morgan and started the Niagara back in February.  I have a pretty comprehensive archive of photos of the real Niagara in Erie, Pa. on my website and have progressed to the stage of starting to build the guns.  You might wish to visit my website should you run into questions.  I have not started a Build Log here as it would be redundant to my site.  This is a fun project with lots of possibilities.  Check it out if you wish at   http://www.niagaramodel.com 

Have fun,

John

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Thank you everyone for your encouraging words!  I finally stopped putting off creating a build log, so I'm a bit further than the pictures show but I failed to take photos of some of the steps.  I'll post more soon.

 

Thanks again!

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Welcome to the Niagara clan.

 

Like yourself, this was and still is (not quite done yet) my first build. Posting a log will serve you well. There are many experienced eyes out there willing to proffer advice. As an amateur, I found it absolutely necessary to help conquer the various challenges you are about to face.

 

Don't hesitate to ask questions. Good luck on your journey.  You are not alone.

 

PS. It is hard to remember that my Niagara once not too long ago, looked so bare. It has put on a little "weight" since then.

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As I became fairing the hull and fitting battens it became obvious that struts would be useful in providing rigidity for the operation.  I cut the struts from 1/4" by 1/4" square dowels I picked up a hobby store.  I cut each piece about 20 thou under in hopes of preventing any self induced keel warp.  That ended up working out pretty well, titebond seemed to pick up the gap nicely.  

 

I marked off either side of each bulkhead using my Incra ruler to mark the distance from the keel.  For those don't have one of these, I highly recommend it.  The holes in the ruler are cut precise for 0.5mm lead so you can precisely mark up to 1/64th.  Next, I used stacks of Makerbeam as guage blocks to set the vertical hight of the strut and provide a resting surface while the glue set.

 

A couple bulkheads were either the wrong size to begin with or I got a bit carried away with my Dremel during sanding.  What I did to shim the couple bulkheads was cut strips of 1/32" basswood from some of the laser cut scrap.  I cut them cross grain to maximize contact with the bulkhead when gluing.  So far it seems to work pretty well.  A little sanding with a block and the edge of the shim tapered nicely.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Following your build log with great interest.

 

I, as well, am building Niagara. But, in reviewing several build logs, became concerned with the lengths to which builders have to go to keep everything square and rigid, so decided to build a solid hull based on the kit drawings and templates.

I had to construct my own waterline plans since the kit plans didn't include them. I fared the points taken from the kit section drawings and plotted onto a plan using pins at each point and a strip of wood.

I found several points, on section line "M" and "N", about midway between the keel and deck, where the hull shape transitions from convex to concave, that could not possibly be "fare".

 

I noticed that your pic shows shimming at section "F". I was wondering if you tested the "M" and "N" area with a batten , and if so, have you found the need to shim at this location.

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On 8/4/2017 at 0:10 PM, Srodbro said:

Following your build log with great interest.

 

I, as well, am building Niagara. But, in reviewing several build logs, became concerned with the lengths to which builders have to go to keep everything square and rigid, so decided to build a solid hull based on the kit drawings and templates.

I had to construct my own waterline plans since the kit plans didn't include them. I fared the points taken from the kit section drawings and plotted onto a plan using pins at each point and a strip of wood.

I found several points, on section line "M" and "N", about midway between the keel and deck, where the hull shape transitions from convex to concave, that could not possibly be "fare".

 

I noticed that your pic shows shimming at section "F". I was wondering if you tested the "M" and "N" area with a batten , and if so, have you found the need to shim at this location.

 

 

I've added a shim to M since the photo, and just checked N and it could use about 1/32 in some spots.  I was a little unsure if I got too aggressive with the shaping.  Hearing your comments about M & N is very useful.

 

So far the building board seems to be working well.  I'll see if I can put a half way decent drawing showing how it's put together if interesnted.  The key components are:

 

Base - 2 ft x 1 ft x 3/4 in MDF

2x 600mm Makerbeam - parallel and 100mm from the midline using the inside faces https://www.makerbeam.com/makerbeam-600mm-1p-black-makerbeam.html

2x 200mm Makerbeam - that act as the cross members https://www.makerbeam.com/makerbeam-200mm-8p-black-makerbeam.html

Corner brackets to add stability between the beams

4x Corner brackets to act as clamp https://www.makerbeam.com/makerbeam-corner-brackets-12p.html

 

I used M3 computer thumbscrews along with the Makerbeam T-slot nuts to allow for finer adjustment (https://www.makerbeam.com/makerbeam-t-slot-nuts-for-makerbeam-25p.html)

 

The beams are held to the board via countersunk holes and M3 screws through the back into T-slot nuts on the underside of the beams.

 

The hardest part was really just measuring it and ensuring accurate alignment along with the right depth of the counter sunk holes as the number of the threads on the T-slot nuts are very small so the margin of error is low.

 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Now it's onto framing the transom and stern filler blocks.  This took a bit of time as there is quite a bit going on.  The horn timbers break if you stare at them incorrectly, luckily it happened only once.

 

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I found it easiest to align the timbers and use a scrap blank and some mini cloths pins to keep them in place while the glue sets.

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After I glued in the timbers I realized the profile was off a bit (the middle timbers were too low vs the outer timers).  So I ended up adding 3/32 square stock on top of the stiffeners to align to the tops of the outer timbers.  This ended up creating a nice arc much closer to the plans.  I might have a bit of trouble with the gun ports but the extra framing will be hidden.

 

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Next is adding the arch board.  I found rubber bands were the easiest to get the correct force along the angle as there wasn't a place to really clamp onto.  I ended up using epoxy to hold the arch in place as the timber is relatively thick and has a slight arc.

 

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  • 2 months later...

Next, i've framed the supports for the top rail.

 

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I found that using multiple thinner pieces of stock allowed for a nicer curve along the bow.  No steam bending necessary when using thinner stock as well.

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Sadly, I failed to capture any photos of the laborious process of framing the gun ports.  I also used the same technique as xken of using 1/32" square stock to mimic the inner surface of the gun ports and sweeps.

 

Now onto the body work.

 

I sprayed 2 coats of the Vallejo grey urethane primer with my airbrush and sanded between coats using 400 grit 3M ultra flexible .

 

Additionally, I used the bondo spot putty on the inner side of the gun ports to even the surface and hopefully give the appearance of a single board through the full width.

 

I attempted to color match the red from various photos and settled on the following:

 

1.  5 parts Vellejo red 

2.  6 parts Vellejo amaranth red

3.  1 part flow improver

4.  3 parts thinner

 

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First coat is applied, I'll sand then shoot another 1-2 then apply a matte varnish (again, another fantastic xken tip).

 

 

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  • 10 months later...

Finally the new model workshop setup after my move to Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

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There is a rather impressive hobby store called Wonderland Models just walking distance from my flat.  I found this squadron green putty a good substitute for the bondo spot putty.

 

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I laid out the deck in a similar manner to xken, and used dark Titebond II along with some black grey to mimc the caulking.   I then used my  miniature veritas bench plane to remove the excess and borrowed a piece of glass from my furnished flat to create a flat surface to plane on.

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Later I ghosted the plank ends using a mechanism pencil, a compass to create a pattern to trim the deck.

 

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Last evening, I started laying out the plank belts using thread.

 

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