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US Brig Niagara by Srodbro - Model Shipways - Scale 1:64 - Solid Hull Experiment

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This will be my first build log, and I wasn't sure if I should have it here, in the Kits forums, or in the Scratch build forums, since I am diverging so much from the normal, plank-on-bulkhead technique. I decided on the Kit forum, since nearly everything I'm doing is, well, based on the Model Shipways kit and drawings. All of my previous builds (Yankee Hero, Fannie Gorham, We're Here, Dapper Tom, and a recent 1/2-hull - 1/2- model of six masted schooner Wyoming) have been solid hull projects. I found dealing with my builds of New Bedford Whaleboat (PoF) and Grand Banks Dory (PoB) to be tedious due to the light weight construction. When I decided to build Niagara, I thought I'd try to construct a solid hull upon which to later apply the planking, and then complete the model per kit instructions. 


I have made some some progress on this effort, and thought I'd share the experiences of this experiment. A couple of thoughts to begin.

My old microbiology professor preached "Hinkley's Law", which said "Most experiments are failures." I expect that may turn out to be true for this one, as well. 

During this build I have found the build logs of 6ohiocav and mikiek very informative; the website Niagaramodel.com is invaluable. 

The responses to my earlier post on planking a solid hull by BACKER and Pete  Jaquith were helpful. I chose to ignor the advice in wefalck's response (sorry). 


So,  here we go. Hold fast!


My first task was to create a set of waterline drawings from the drawings in the kit. Let me say up front that creating these was fraught with the opportunity for error. Every time a point is transferred from one drawing to another, or from paper to wood, error can occur. I calculated that given the number of sections, the number of points on each section, the number of transfers, I had a 1 in 960 chance of matching the kit drawings. At best. 

I first drew onto the kit sections of the bulkheads the outline of my wood layers. From these I measured from centerline to the intersection of each layer with the section curve of the bulkhead. This distance I transferred to an overlay of the kit plan. Then, on another overlay, I connected the points for each layer by faring with a wood strip pinned to the drawing. This gave me a pattern to glue to my wood layers for cutout. 


Next:  attacking the wood. 





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You obviously got my attention, and I look forward to the experiment.


I do have to ask however, what is driving your decision to start with a solid hull that you will ultimately plank. Is it a functional one? -  that is to create a solid base upon which to lay wooden planks? Are you going to start with the Model Expo bulkheads, and fill in the gaps with wood, or simply carve the entire hull out of a single block of wood?


In any case, welcome to the Niagara club.



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A couple factors contributed to my choice of approach. Familiarity with working on solid hulls; knowing that a solid hull can take a lot of abuse during the process; ease of securely mounting it while working on it. I also saw that most builders add varying amounts of blocking between bulkheads to reinforce the skeleton (not the least of which was illustrated by your log, of fillers between A and B bulkheads as well as everything aft of "O" bulkhead. I figured there wouldn't be too much more involved to just make it solid to begin with (which I am learning may not be entirely true) -- but, that's the heart of the experiment. 

The closest the laser cut bulkheads are coming to being used in the model is that I'll be using the "waste" that surrounds them as templates to check my hull. 

As following posts will show, I am constructing the hull of laminations as might be done for a half-hull model. 

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Here is a pic of the combined lift lines that I created from the kit drawings. I neglected to include anything aft of "Q" section line. (The pic is foggy in some areas because you are looking through nine layers of tracing paper. These sheets of paper I glued onto my lift blanks. 



i "corrected" this omission after having glued the patterns to the lift blanks, by taking points off the drawing detail 2-H, after adjusting for my lift blank thickness. IMG_0996.thumb.JPG.41f392aa38b9255963e6ef7608e6b641.JPG

But, I didn't really have a clear picture of how the complex shape of the hull married together with the sharp angles of the stern stanchions.  In retrospect, I probably should have ended my hull at "Q" section line, but I didn't, I just smoothed the curves of the upper lifts to a pleasing termination. (Call this Big Mistake #1 -- BM#1 -- I'll revisit this later). 

Next I assembled the raw materials of my lift blanks into the proper size. IMG_0822.thumb.JPG.af57e0642fe9c797cf326ad829d76773.JPG

I used poplar from the craft section of a local lumberyard, which came wrapped in plastic. The blanks were 1/4 and 1/2 (actually 7/16) inches thick. It didn't take long for these thin sheets to warp once in the humid basement shop. But, I figured (hoped) that by alternating the cupped surfaces the glue would bond them together. 

There is a split between section lines "M" and "N" which divides the aft third of lift 5,6,7 and 8, which are all 1/4" thick, from the forward two-thirds, which are 1/2" thick for lift 5/6, and 1/4" for lifts 7 and 8. This was done to provide more waterline lift points where the stern shape transitions so much more than the bow. The lifts below lift 5 are the full length of the hull. (I hope this doesn't wind up being BM#2!). 


After gluing on the lift patterns to each blank, they were cut out with a saber saw. 


The lowest three lifts were glued together, the aft-third four lifts glued together, and the forward lifts glued together, in three separate subassemblies to facilitate initial shaping. Here is the stern subassembly with initial shaping on the right  IMG_0833.thumb.JPG.5e1256ae3b8b094c75a0072c9de0f61c.JPG

Then the three subassemblies were glued together. IMG_0838.thumb.JPG.af32bb44a02ffd33d09d393e66a96ca1.JPG

After setting up in the clamps and vice overnight, I gathered together my arsenal for shaping the hull.


I used the Waste" from around the kit's laser cut bulkheads as templates for the shaping. IMG_0848.thumb.JPG.3efbfd1efe88da891e580a2132f6d2d5.JPG

Rasping, sanding, filling, more sanding, and an acceptable hull emerged. 


Then the topside needed attention. There is a slight rise to the deck from stern to bow. IMG_0879.thumb.JPG.745dfbece4b7676de08b16db10e31de5.JPG

And a camber to the deck from centerline to the sheer. 


This pretty much completed the major shaping of the hull. 


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Good to see another solid hull build log.  I prefer Plank on Solid (POS) construction for its accuracy and providing a solid support for planking.  For ships with copper sheathing I recess the upper hull to accommodate hull planking.  This picture is from my Topsail Schooner EAGLE  1847 build log.





Edited by Pete Jaquith
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Thanks for referring me to your Eagle build log. Our solid hull methodology is similar, (though your workmanship far exceeds mine) but you will see in subsequent posts how I differed in my approach to the bulwarks. 

More than one way to skin that cat. 

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I have had the worst luck with keels on my builds. One came off, due to insufficient glue area, I think, and another split twice during the build. I was determined that the keel on this build was going to be more robust. I cut then chiseled a 1/4" groove down the centerline of the hull and inserted a piece of cherry that I had leftover from a cabinet project. IMG_0864.thumb.JPG.7b447a0e573a6fb000e57d3925f55375.JPG

I used the same material for the stem and stern, a secured with glue, clamps, and a few trenails for good measure. 


Ill do further shaping and sanding down to a more scaled width before planking, but for now these element remain capable of great abuse. 

After adding the keel, I added a strong mount to the bottom of the hull so I can hold the model in a vice while working topside. 


Going topside now to address the development of the bulwarks. When I fashioned the hull, I excluded the timberframes above the deck, and shaped the hull out to the sheer line. Looking at the drawing detail, the outboard edge of the waterway abuts the inboard edge of the laser cut bulkhead timberheads. 


So, if all turned out according to plan, when I used dividers to measure the plan distance from ship centerline to the waterway and transfer the location to the hull, I should have a bit of hull showing outboard of the outer edge of the waterway.


Hey!  Not too bad  


Oh-oh. Looks like I'll have to do some fixing at the bow. 

I soaked a couple of waterway extension strips and glued to the waterway to provide the base from which to build up my bulwarks. IMG_0915.thumb.JPG.1d1e14736c68fc53f0eb8876a70ca50e.JPG

This put the sheer line beyond the hull at the bow as seen from below, so I'll have to return to this problem later. Over-zealous working with that bench plane, I guess (I just love those curly shavings flying when I get a rhythm going). 




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My excessive planing of the hull near the bow is my Big Mistake #3 (BM#3). But, as I know that I'll have further shaping issues ahead with the bulwarks, I'll postpone correcting this until then. On to the bulwarks. 


I first considered fabricating timberheads similar to the way the kit treats the stern stanchions. 


Then I considered cutting in vertical pieces along the hull, instead. This is similar to the way Pete Jacquith did his on Eagle


Taking this idea a bit further, I thought I could make repetitive subassemblies that would incorporate the framing for the gunports and sweep ports, maybe like the highlighted portion of the detail below. IMG_0907.thumb.JPG.10bf5efe52a3fe97510b902d3d1f556e.JPG

But it seemed that would require a complicated jig to get consistency. 

Then it dawned on me that all these approaches started with the assumption that I had to follow the spacing of the bulkheads, and that wasn't so. On this model, there is ceiling on the inboard side of the bulwarks and planking outboard. The timberheads aren't exposed anywhere. So I made a sketch of the side of the ship showing the gunports and sweep ports to find the simplest subassembly scheme. 


At the bottom of the chicken scratches are illustrated three gunports and two sweep ports. There are two continuous elements, the waterway at the bottom and the rail at the top. Between these, between each pair of gunports, I have four stacked elements, with the second from bottom as tall as the sweep port and divided in two by a gap the width of the sweep port. The top left sketch shows the final configuration of pieces, with two vertical elements, each forming one side of a gunport. The sketch at upper right shows that I would make the upper elements thicker, because each subassembly must accommodate both the flare of the bulwarks forward and the tumblehome aft. IMG_0896.thumb.JPG.43f5ea589690c44f9f68195e8c38c0ba.JPG

With the proper thickness, I could accommodate any location along the hull with a typical subassembly. 


i decided that forward of bulkhead section "C" the flare was too dramatic, and something else would have to be done there. So I constructed a simple jig to build the bulwarks subassemblies and put them together. IMG_0910.thumb.JPG.58c2003d97e0834d9ecb18f58c68c154.JPG


To accommodate extremes of flare or tumblehome, I could install with the thicker top inward or outward and minor angular trimming of the waterway. Using a block spacer sized for the gunports, the typical bulwarks subassemblies are installed along the waterway. 



Also installed at this time is the temporary bowsprit. Treatment of the bow and stern bulwarks are atypical. 



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This black and white image of the hull from below the deck level looking aft highlights the relationship between the bulwarks and the waterway extension, and the hull. The portion of the bulwarks that extends outboard of the waterway extension will need to be removed, and the hull built outward. 


Here the grooves for the bow timberheads and knight heads have been begun. 


Next, the rough timberheads added, and a couple rows of wood strips added to build out the hull (to address BM#3--over-zealous hull shaping). 


Using the kit's laser cut rails, I laid out the lines on top of the forward timberheads and the bulwarks that would be used to shape them. IMG_0946.thumb.JPG.77c152187a796c65af8c707d19e14246.JPG

Before continuing with shaping, the stern needed attention. 


Because the top of my solid hull is equal to the underside of the future deck, insets needed to be cut and chiseled out to set the stern stanchions flush with the hull. 


it didn't take long before these delicate pieces broke. If I ever do this again, I'll fabricate the stanchions of laminated styrene (seems like with all the builders who experience problems with these, kit manufacturers might consider furnishing these in Britannia metal). 


The port outer stanchions broke later. I repaired and reinforced the broken ones with slivers of brass, CA'd into place. 


After framing up the stern, the topmost element of the bulwarks, a continuous strip from bow to stern, was soaked, pinned and glued into place. 


the final bulwarks just forward of the stern were fabricated similar to the typical bulwarks subassemblies and glued into place. 



Then all the bulwarks were addressed with the Dremel tool. 


With filling and sanding, she was starting to look like a ship. 


Remember BM#1?(Big Mistake #1 -- not having a clear understanding of the stern). Well, that's coming home to roost, now. My guessing at the shape of thing aft of section "Q" required a lot of filling with wood and filler. IMG_0981.thumb.JPG.aed82d69fa3f3a7af9b7c4b2bf5ba1c9.JPG

The space between the sternpost and the archboard should get covered by about 5 or 6 planks. I only have room for about three. 


by the way, I haven't seen on any build log an "arch" in the archboard anywhere near that shown on the kit drawings. Mine certainly doesn't. I'll bet it has to do with the positioning of those darned stern stanchions. I may have to live with this stern inaccuracy. 

After another round of sanding everywhere, I turned to installation of the sheerplank. These laser cut kit pieces had cutouts for the bulkhead timberheads, which I don't have. So, I only used that portion of these parts that go into the gunports. 



And "Boo-Yah!!"  I think I'm ready to start planking, now! 


No, just one more thing to do. Remember BM#2, where I glued up the hull lifts?  The stern 1/3 of the upper four lifts were married to the forward 2/3 by a glued butt joint of end grain. So, I cut into my hull and added two butterfly splines across that joint. 


Now I can rest easy that it is less likely to fall apart until the deck planking can help marry these two sections. 


So, with BM#2 addressed, as well as BM#3, and BM#1 at a (maybe) acceptable state, this Niagara is going into mothballs for a few months. Next week starts late summer and fall fishing season, followed by hunting season, followed by the holidays. Many more activities for this old man to do while he can. But, I can't be in the boat all the time ,nor continually traipsing the wilderness for game, so maybe I'll get around to making the small boats in the kit, or cannons, or I may just lop off that stern, aft of section "Q". Or, who knows:  I have all the kit hull components I need from the kit to build another hull, and demonstrate to myself that the solid hull experiment, vs. the plank on bulkhead, while interesting, was much more involved than I thought. I may wind up with Niagara AND Lawrence







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Tremendous progress!


I understand your challenge with the stern. It was by far the toughest part of the hull for me. You have also captured the unique shape of the bow bulwarks, where they "flair" out as they go forward. Again, not easy since you are not using the kit supplied bulkheads.


I tried to get some "arch" to my archboard and fully understand the issue you faced.


I don't know what your plan is for painting, but if you do paint, you may want to paint the sweeps and gun ports before you plank.


I have to reiterate a point you made early on, this really is much more of a scratch build.




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