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Tom E

US Brig Niagara by Tom E - Model Shipways - 1:64 Scale

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It has been a while since I took a peek at your log and I note that you have made tremendous progress. You are doing all the right things. I am looking forward to seeing the results of your paint work.


Looks like we are sending another big snow storm your way. We are getting it tonight. And yes, I hate it when I hear that Mike is using his air conditioner.


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Oh yes - a front came thru last nite. It was  a bone chilling 48 this morning :D


I wouldn't mind some of your stuff for a change.

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Welcome back aboard sir! Thanks for the kind comments.



If you want any of this weather up here, there's plenty to go around. 3 large storms, or what we call Noreastahs!. All in 3 weeks.

Very winter weary, ready for any warmth.

I see what you mean about the stealers. Play it by ear, don't follow the plans to the letter.

The boat will dictate when and where a stealer is needed. With that in mind, and to have my planks join/meet lower down the boat, has me thinking.

Lay the Garboard, maybe 1 more plank, start belt B. After 2-4 planks of belt B, lay a plank in garboard/belt D section, then I'll probably alternate from there.


I figure that's where I'll use a lot of the cut planks instead of whole.




Got the afternoon off from work.

Another Nor-eastah is heading in and the gal I work with doesn't, and cant!, drive in the snow. WAY too nervous!

I get the afternoon off, she gets a snow day tomorrow.

I don't care. I don't mind driving in the snow. It freaks some people out tho! And those are the people that DONT belong on the roads during a snow storm.


So I headed to Home Depot.

Spent about an hour in there!


I found the below cordless mini Dremel.

I love this thing! I made more progress in 1 day on the Cutters than at any other time.


It's so light, and easy on the hands.

Cordless and rechargeable too. The cordless is what sold me on it. It's a heck of a lot easier than breaking out the big Dremel every time I need it.

It's powerful enough for our medium here. Nothing too thick tho.





The mini Dremel makes easy work of the "stack up" Cutters.

I have been dreading this task. This thing just took care of it.

Below is still the rough cut. 



I think I have also decided on a deck stain. I must have hung out in front of the stain section at Home Depot for half an hour.

Went with Weathered Oak.

Not too bright, not too dark. Plus, I like the look of it, and should work well with the rest of the colors involved with the ship.


Would period ship builders even have access to Oak?


Tom E 


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Niagara was built in Erie PA - on the shores. If I recall the closest town by land was over 100 miles with nothing but woods & swamp in between. Did they have oak?

With that said, they were in such a hurry to build Niagara & Lawrence they did not let the wood cure/dry. So what does green oak look like? A lot of folks like Minwax Golden Oak. It looks nice on basswood.


You reminded me of something when you mentioned "lots of cut planks". I believe I was working on the deck but the same holds true for the hull. I thought I would save some time one day by cutting a big pile of sticks. Then I could grab from the pile as I was laying the planks. So I took an hour and probably cut 30 sticks into planks. NOT A GOOD IDEA.  Although your eye may not see it, those sticks are not a consistent width. They can be and are 4-5 hairs width different. It doesn't sound like much until you butt the end of a skinnier one up to the end of a wider one. You can probably imagine where I am going with this. The moral, cut up one stick and use it all in the same strake.


Your plan for the bands can work, just be aware the bands can help you when you are about to sink yourself. Using the bands, if you get to the last strake in the band you can judge how well you are doing by where the stick lays in relation to the band border. If you need to go wide or skinny with that stick the adjustment won't be too bad and you'll be right back on track for the start of the next band. If you turn your remaining bands into 1 it's harder to tell when you are getting off track. <stand on soap box> Unless of course you are using dividers <step off soapbox>


Stay warm....

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Rybka, in his book, the Lake Erie Campaign of 1813, refering to Niagara, lists

species used in construction of the hull as red, black and white oak, as well as cherry, chestnut and poplar, with cedar and pine being used to plank the bulwarks. The need for speed meant that the selection process was the nearest large tree, then the one behind it and then the next beyond that.”


And while the species may have been red, black, or white, it was also “green”. 



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This build needs an update.

Admittedly, been sheepish in the Shipyard lately. Still building, but that dang March Madness basketball tourney sure does take a bite out of the weekend.

Great basketball so far with some great upsets.


I started putting the Garboard plank on.

All the fairing and a well cut Rabbet paid off......I think.



Sometimes the view from the Shipyard gets good!



My plank and Rabbet look like they meet well.

Its a great seam the entire length.

Sorry for the fuzzy pics.



It must have taken me an entire day for each Garboard.




I listened to your advice from Mr. Sandborn.

I found that "spot" where it starts to shift/move up/twist as it enters the bow area.

Marked it and ended the Garboard there. My next plank will lay on top of the first and hopefully run the entire length.

That should show where a stealer will be needed at the bow.


I laid a plank on top of the Garboard already and I can see the stealer. Should be easy to make.

Then I'll move back to Band B for a few planks.


On the above pic, 3 frame from the left. There's a pencil mark on the plank.

You can see where the plank is off the frame. All 3 on the right it lays right on them.


Below you can see that's where I ended it.

Should I move it back another frame?

Is a larger stealer easier to make over a small one or vice versa?



On a side note I've started building a "jig" for rigging the cannons.

Its a 2 bay garage.

Both sides will be made up so that either a cannon or carronade can be rigged.


Honestly, It has been a blast building this jig.

Its a mini model all out of the scrap pile.

All measurements for this are direct from the plans.

Although its Niagara specific, I'm pretty sure it can be used with other kits.



Tom E


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Thanks Jim,


I'll pre rig all the cannon tackle off the boat. Once rigged, take it from the jig and transfer it to the deck and hook it back on.

For the Breech line I'll have some metal rod installed on the jig to hook the ring at the end of the Breech line to. 

Credit should go to others, definitely not my idea!

I should have pics soon.


I may not need the cannons yet, but I think I wanna try and rig a cannon with the product I got from Syren.

Really want to see how it looks!


Tom E 

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Looking good.  The key to the garboard strake is the shape of the edge at the bow. It has to be shaped (sort of a half round) so that the upper edge of the strake is straight in all places as it bends around the bow and fits at the bottom in the rabbit. This will assure that the upper strakes lay correctly as you move your way up.


I used Syren's 3mm blocks for the cannon/carronade rigging, and I rigged just the carriages to the deck first before adding the actual tubes and upper slides. I posted a practicum on stropping the small 3mm blocks on my log. For scale purposes, it seemed to be the right block, even though it was incredibly small and hard to handle.


Good luck.

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Tom - time spent on the garboard is a good investnment. Yours is looking good. Nice and snug in the rabbet.


I don't understand your need for a stealer. As Darrell said the bottom of the GB at the bow end will be rounded somewhat. The exact shape to be determined by the fit between the rabbet and GB. Shaping that correctly should give you a smooth upper edge for the next strake. You shouldn't need any correction there. If you do, something is not right. Try like the dickens to use a complete stick for the GB. That was one of the few boards that shipwrights would search the woods to find something long enough to use a single board for the whole strake. If you have to go with planks, make the split at an "easy spot", where everything is laying perfectly.


Your question regarding the GB raised above the 3 left frames. That would most likely be the rabbet not allowing the GB stick to go where it needs to. In a perfect world the strake would lay flat on the frames mid-ship but remember that GB has quite a few twists in it. That spot on the hull is one of those places. At this point you may consider pressing the edge down onto the frame and gluing with some CA. It's not much of a gap really.


One thing I can recommend (because I didn't do it) is constantly observing your planking from the bow and stern. You want uniformity on each side, but also side to side. When you are looking at the bow or stern head on, the strakes should be symetrical. This can be easy to overlook until it's too late - and then you might need a stealer to get back on track.


The mock gundeck can be very helpful in determining how to rig the guns. Don't forget to add eyebolts in the bulwark for the tackles to hook into. I found that adding a split ring into each eyebolt made the hookup a lot easier, both on the bulwark and carriage eyebolts. Personally I think it looked better as well. Trying to put 3mm hooks into the eyebolt ring can be brutal. The split ring is much easier. You can also play around with rope sizes if you want. IMHO the rope sizes on the plans for the tackles was too small. I spent a lot of time (literally weeks) neurotically going thru various combinations of rope and blocks. Try what the plan calls for first. If you like that, great. But don't be afraid to try something different. There is a school that says all rope sizes should be proportional to the scale of the build - meaning you can calculate any rope diameter and there is one and only one size for any rope on the boat. That just didn't work for me on the tackles. I felt they looked like they were held with a thread rather than rope. They needed some beef.


As you said, you are not quite ready for guns yet but it is an incredibly repetitive, time consuming task so best to start early, when you can do a few when you feel like it. That said, it is always more efficient to use an assembly line approach. Drill all holes for eyebolts. Add all split rings to eyebolts. Glue all eyebolts into holes. Etc. This was helpful for making the tackles - I believe there was over 100 of them. After the first few you will begin to see a pattern that you can follow, and you can crank them out more efficiently. Practice on your mockup. Speaking of eyebolts, don't forget to color them BEFORE you glue them into the bulwark.


I'm preaching again as usual....have fun

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Keep preaching! Your keeping me on track.

I've decided to re-do my Garboards. I misinterpreted what you meant by that "spot" where the curve of the bow begins.

I thought that was a stopping point for the Garboard plank.

Logically, it just makes sense to do one plank. I can maintain a straight edge better with 1 plank.  

Do believe I was over thinking it.


Tom E 

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Maybe this pic will help. To clarify the procedure - think what is happening. As you slide the GB forward, the bottom leading corner will be what hits the point in the rabbet that forces it upwards. What should be done at that point is nip off the corner at about a 90 degree angle and do the slide exercise again. The GB should slide a little further  forward before it starts upwards. Nip off a little more and try again. What you are trying to do is get the bottom edge of the GB to fit into the rabbet while keeping the GB upper edge level. You can see how mine ended up.




Thinking back I believe the GB was the only strake that I put some nails in, at least while fitting it all together. If you can get the GB nailed into position with no glue the easy test is to lay the next strake on the GB. If it sits flush then life is good. If you see a gap up at the bow then it is likely the GB has started bending upwards. In that case you would want slide the GB backwards a bit and try again.


Don't feel bad if you go thru that exercise many times. I think I also went thru 3-4 sticks as well. That is probably the most difficult step in planking. It is for modelers and it was for shipwrights. But it is worth doing right - almost like the "foundation" of your ship. Literally everything else rides on that one strake.


I also found these crude drawings I made for someone. This kinda shows how the angle of the rabbet groove changes from bow to stern. Probably no help for this build, but something to remember for the next.(Uploading is failing-will try again later)









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Has been an awesome Sunday in the Boatyard! The constant drone of either a hockey game or basketball game in the background all day.

Kansas and Villanova won! I'm still alive in the work pool!!!!! Would be a nice chunk of "found" money to re-invest back into Niagara.

Another order or 2 from Syren should round out what I need for the entire build......plus plenty of extra.




As stated in earlier posts, I took out my original Garboard planks. I ended them way to short.

I can even remember laying those down saying to myself....I could lay just one piece. Chock that up to inexperience.


I took the wisdom of both Mike and Darrell on the second attempt. I think a better attempt.

Darrell had mentioned the curve of the plank as it met the rabbet in the bow, and Mike mentioned that the plank must lay as straight as possible for the next plank.

With both of those directions in my head I dove in.




First things first tho, I soaked and formed my Garboards.

I'm not going to "force" anything with these planks.

They were clamped up and left to dry overnight. Any curve found from front to back has been accounted for. 




There's a fairly good twist at the front. 

But with a proper soak and dry, the planks simply hugs the curve.




With some shaping.....

The curve falls into the Rabbet and the top is flat for the next plank.

Thank you Mike and Darrell for the heads up on that one.


PS - The angle of this pic does no justice to the flat part. I should have turned the boat over.



The second Garboard went in this afternoon.

They look perpendicular to the keel.

What looks like a nice straight edge and sits in the Rabbet well the entire length.

With some sanding, should improve.



On a side note.....

My Cannon are basically done. Just have to make to Quoins. Those little buggers are tiny!

Brass was being difficult for the Trunnions (Spelling?), so I cheated and used card stock.

Its ok, and I figure the rigging should draw the eye away from it for the most part.




I also put the very first coat of Bulwarks Green and a fresh coat of red.


She has color!.......its weird. Its been mostly a wooden brown thing for the most part.

Kinda takes on another dimension.......or its way too many blows to the head as a kid!



Get a deck down and she will really come alive!


No deck until the hull is planked!



Tom E 


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You "got it" on the garboard plank.  Looks good. If you paint the hull per the plans, you can get away with some planking deficiencies that will be corrected with some filler and sanding before painting. Great work!

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My Lawyer has advised me to invoke my 5th amendment rights concerning these stealers.....:huh:


In all seriousness.....If I'm able to pull off a hull with no stealers.....well......beers and steaks are on me gentlemen!

Gonna assume I'll need a few stealers somewhere.

Ya never know, maybe I can. Doubting it, but, I'll certainly try.


Tom E 

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Happy Easter to all! Spring has arrived in New England and the sun felt wonderful today!

Spent some time on the back porch with my face in the sun and a cold beer in my hand.

Cigar in the ashtray.......but don't tell the Admiral!!! :D

Every last soul in this house today did nothing but goof off and do there own thing. 

Good times.....




I have been building. Seems several projects at once.

I'm really trying to wrap some things up, like the foremast, but there's always something else to install.

There's a rush of endorphins when you "discover" something you missed before. Oh yeah.....cleats on a mast.


This weekend seemed to focus on planking, tops and stropping blocks.

All very productive.


I worked on the tops. The basic foremast has been done. Now to dress it up!



The platform sits well. Photos don't do it justice.

The top isn't glued in yet, just a test fit for "show"



I'll prime the cheeks and cross timbers next. 

They should have there first coat of Spar Black by the end of the weekend. 



Planking continues. I installed the next plank above the Garboard.

I'll do a few planks in Belt B once this plank is secured. In my head.....I see 2 planks in Belt D then 3-5 planks in belt B, then repeat......or something to that effect.



As you recommended, I'm aiming to keep any "fixes" near the bottom.


She's as straight as this novice can do!



The pic will never do the below justice. It does run relatively straight the entire length.




It's a tedious process, but I'm doing that on purpose.

Soak plank for at least 30-40 minutes, clamp plank to hull, dry with plank bender, re-clamp, let sit - most times overnight.

I average about 2 planks per day. That's ok, I kinda like it. I can see the hull slowly closing up.

With every plank, I'm learning something new, and that reflects on the next plank.

My bending planks talent has improved, greatly.




I kinda hijacked your method of stropping the blocks with hooks. 

I'm using Syrens 1/8th Doubles and Single blocks with 0.008 black rope.

I started by gluing one end of about 3 inches of rope half way down one of the grooves in the blocks.

I then thread a 3mm hook thru the line.



Adjusted to where I wanted the hook.

Brought the rope around to the other side following the grooves. At the ropes junction I cut it.




There they are folks......my first stropped blocks!


It took all day......but I made two!  :huh:

Only about 170 more needed! And that's just for the cannon/carronade.

Rinse and repeat!


I think going forward, trying to save the good rope for other things, I may use the kit supplied rope for the stropping.

Just to pinch a penny or two. 


Tom E 



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Tom - black & dark brown ropes are supposed to simulate tarred rope. It's used mostly for your standing rigging. It's nasty stuff - sticky, smelly, rubs off on anything. I don't think it would have been used for gun tackles. But that one is your call.


The bottom of the cheeks on your masts are supposed to be sanded - kind of tapered - so it blends into the mast.


If you decide you want to speed up your planking, this works well for me and no waiting over night. With the basswood, I don't even bother bending first. Lay your strake in place and put a small pencil mark at each spot on the stick where it is touching a frame.  You're going to be gluing the strake to between 1 to 4 frames at a time. Start amidship (the easiest area) and run some white glue along the top edge of your new strake. This edge will be contacting the bottom edge of the previous stick and will eventually dry. DO NOT put white glue on the edge above the pencil marks. Go for 4 frames on this step. Let that stick sit a couple of minutes to let the glue begin to set. Now put a dot of medium CA on the frames right beneath the previous strake. Quickly take your new stick, line up the marks and lay it on the frames, pushing it upwards to contact the previous stick and also push downwards at the frames. The CA dries quickly and acts as your nail, hold the stick in place until the white glue can dry. You should be able to easily do the next 2-3 frames on either side of that - same process. After that it will likely get to doing 1 frame per step as you are getting to the areas where the stick needs to bend or twist. So do that, manually bending or twisting as required. Again the CA (if applied lightly) should hold the stick to the frame. Use any type of clamp if you want but make sure the entire spot of the strake is contacting the frame.


A couple of notes. I'm using Titebond moulding & trim white glue. It's a lot thicker then the regular stuff so it does not run or drip and it set quicker as well. The reason for not applying white glue above the pencil marks - I have a tendency to slide the strake up under the previous one. Sometimes when I do this the white glue would get on the frame and mix with the CA which can render the CA useless so the stick doesn't stick.


Your blocks look good. I don't know if you saw them at the Syren site, but Chuck is offering blocks (you have to assemble them) with metal parts for pins & straps and a working sheave. They look real nice. Haven't used them before but I ordered some and let everyone know how it goes. Chuck recommends putting them in strategic places, not a total replacement.


Rambling again :rolleyes:  FWIW.......

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Great looking blocks. By now, I have stropped so many blocks, it is almost second nature, but like you, my first blocks were for the guns with hooks.  And yes, it took me all day just to figure out how to do my first one.... Yes, there are 170 more waiting for you. Good training for the future.  I have to make an omission too. I stropped 170 single blocks with hooks before I realized that I need to add a lanyard to each one. I had to strip them down and redo each one. I also blackened by hooks.


Check your plans. I believe the single block you stropped needs a lanyard attached opposite the hook. The single hooks to the bulwark. The lanyard runs back through the double block at the gun, back to the single block and back to the double. I think. I am not at my shipyard and relying on a memory that is not as good as it used to be. 


Everything is looking good.  If you ever run into a jam, feel free to send my a private e-mail.

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Sheesh....the Landyards!......:blush:



Sad thing was, I was running the stropping process thru my head afterwards and the thought dawned on me...."how does the actual rigging start/attach?"

I'll strip the single block of its current rope and re do.

I'll use some good Syren 0.008 or 0.012 tan rope for the Lanyard. I'm undecided on the size right now. 

Either you or Mike suggested the rope listed in the plans didn't look "right" scale wise. 



Definitely not looking to speed up the planking. 1 plank at a time. Since I re started modeling, the planking of a ship has intimidated me to no end. Its what I always failed at in my younger days and would give it up. I am determined as a bull moose to get this done.

I did a small amount of planking on the 18th Century Long boat, but nothing as large as Niagara.

If I try to speed up, I'll screw it up.

I did see those blocks from Syren that you mention. I was thinking of buying maybe a few of the triples and rig the anchors with them.

They do look sharp!

When you get them, let us know what you think. I'm very interested in them. I received the Bluejacket kit Bowdoin recently, they would look good on her!


Tom E 


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No problem Tom - whatever works best. I had fun for 3-4 strakes & the garboard, but after that I just wanted to be done.


The blocks should be doubles at the bulwark and singles at the gun.  The .008 in those blocks looked kinda wimpy to me although it is the accepted size for the Niagara scale. I was also frapping the excess and the .008 wound around really looked too thin. Plus the .008 doesn't show the rope strands as well as the .012. People that see what I did either love it or hate it. But I am the only one I was trying to please and I like it.


I'm working a build with a slightly larger scale than Niagara and I think those blocks may fit well. I know they would add a lot. Downside is making each one of them.


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Well, some decisions have been made.

I've decided on the rope combo for my cannon/carronade.

Experimented with different sizes.


All of these pics are "for show" and nothing has been glued or placed permanently. 

Below, Is the .012 rope.



Below, I tried beefing the rope up with some .018 rope.

Too thick and wouldn't really fit well thru the blocks.




Below is the .012 with a .035 Breech rope.

Looks nice with the Syren product!



Finally, the .012 rope with the 1/8th double block. 

This will be my rigging set up going forward with .035 rope for the Breech.


Gonna look awesome with the upgrade in the blocks and rope. This stuff is great!


Tom E 


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I believe that's what I used also Tom. The .35 for sure for the breech. The .18 definitely too much for 3/16" scale and even with the .12 you may find that you will have to drill out some of the holes in the blocks.  For threading your lanyards thru the holes, dip the end in some CA to harden it and keep it from fraying.


One more decision I would make at this point is what are you going to do with the excess rope in your tackles?


Don't know if you were planning on tackles for that ring at the rear. I decided not to. If you do, that particular tackle was usually shared between multiple gun crews. In theory the tackle is only needed for the first load. For subsequent loadings, the recoil of the gun firing would back it up into loading position. The only time it might be needed again would be after a misfire, where the gun didn't recoil. IMO they made it way too crowded on the deck. I can't imagine them being left there.

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I have seen that rear set of tackle and it never agreed with me. Seen it on other builds but thought it made the deck look cluttered. 

I was going to leave those out.


As for the excess rope in the tackles, I was going to put some small coils on the deck.

I have seen the watered down white glue trick that looks like it should work. From what I've read you have to really let them dry.


Tom E 



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I agree with you on the tackles. I have my own feelings about coils, but if you want to go in that direction I believe Darrell showed how to do them.

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I rolled mine up using inverted point tweezers on a glass plate after soaking the rope in a whiteglue/water mix. Once you get the hang of it, it should not be a problem.  You only need 80.....ughh.

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