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USS Constitution by kmart - Model Shipways - scale 1/76

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So I've had Model Expo's Constitution on the self for over two years now. 

I had been waiting until I finish my last build  (HMS Victory Bow Section)  before I start.

Well I just finished The Vic and am wasting no time in jumping right into this one.

It will be good to get away from tying knots and back to wood working.


I've been following some of the other Constitution builds  (UsedtoSail, CaptainSteve and others.. and getting inspired!)

And I'll be shamelessly borrowing ideas from their logs to apply to my own build.  


So I'll start with the typical early decisions  to be made when doing a Connie build :-)

     --Aiming for a 1812  version or reasonable proximity   (of course)

     --Open waist

     --5 window stern 

     --White stripe   (not the yellow)

     --Gun deck with deck and  real cannons.  (Not the dummy barrels.). 


That's all I got for now, but I'll be posting pics soon as I start to assemble the frame and bulkheads.



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So'  I'll start with the box cover




And some Reference material20171009_173821.thumb.jpg.09df19c56b2dc728b1dc4578650ca213.jpg

I also have The History of the American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle in my library. 

And best of all.  I live South of Boston.  So I can regularly visit the Real ship   



And I'll probably join the Constitution Shipwright Guild .


 So the build begins....


Frame and Keel pieces laid out on plans


gluing and clamping the pieces together.  Used pretty much my entire inventory of clamps.   HeHe






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Gluing the 3 frame pieces together.

After cleaning and fitting (and gluing the joints)   

I used two levels to hold the pieces down and square.  Worked great because the level kept the pieces dead flat over the whole length.




And then I added weights to hold everything down.   



After glue dried




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Your off to a great start. I'm glad I have a front seat on this one. I have had the kit in my closet for a couple of years too. I don't have the nerve to start it yet though.


By the way, I grew up in East Boston and could see Constitution's masts from my bedroom window. I visited the ship as often as I could.

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Thanks  for the encouragement everyone. 


Now that the three frame pieces are together.   I wanted to dry fit all the bulkheads.  Without a good deal of clean up, most wont  fit in.

 So I took my dremel tool with a straight router bit and touched up the slots on both the frames and the bulkheads.  I followed that with a small file.

I took just enough off so that they would be a snug fit, (not overly tight) fit.  But still have a just enough play so that they can be squared up when gluiing without a lot of pressure.  So this is Dry fitted.




Latter I'll transfer all  the reference lines to  the bulkheads to ensure they sit at the right height.  But for first pass.. they look fairy good.



As for reference lines on the frame.   I cut out the template from the plans.   I cut the plans at the bearding line.   This let me just lay the template on the frame and trace the edge.






Yes, I know in the pictures, the template is not lined up correctly.   It was when I traced the lines :-)

After I traced the lines.  I cut the rabbit and bearding line using some mini carving knives



After those were cleaned up (both sides)  I went to work on the Stem.


 Notice the two enlarged holes on the stem.  That allows for the rope gammoning??  on the 1812 ship  vs the smaller hole for chain on the current ship and model.



And here I'm gluing on the stem,




A couple of things I'll point out.

1)  The joint between the three frame pieces need to be re-enforced.   I will do that after the Stem, Keel and stern-post are attached and doweled to the frame.

But by leaving them off for now,  It was easier to cut the rabbit and bearding line when the frame is flat on the board.   Likewise when attaching the keel, stem and stern pieces,  if you add the re-enforcing pieces first, then the frame wont be flat on the board.. keeping those pieces square when gluing  harder.

2)  The stem and stern pieces need to be tapered and have the edges rounded..  I am gluing them on first.  Will taper then afterwords.  My thinking being.  The square edges are easier to clamp against.  Being un-tapered  its easier to keep them flat to the board and square with frame when gluing.  And if the clamps mar the wood.. they will be sanded out when I do taper them.   The question then is....how hard will it be to taper them once there all attached.  I'll find out soon enough.


Thats it for now.


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Hey K,


When you laid your frame parts on the plans, did you turned them around also? I did with mine, and they were nonsymmetrical. Just for a tip, if you really want to make sure your ships other side will not be larger than other side. I have some photos about that problem in my Constitution topic. Meaning there is a mistake in the plans and that way you can check that out.


Good luck with your build.



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Hi everyone. newbe here to forum. Getting my u.s.s Conny tommorow. CAN`T WAIT TO START IT. I usually build r/c aircraft, but i wanted to build the wooden conny. I built the revell 1:96 model in 1979,took a year but came out perfect. 35 yrs as a woodworker,and mechanic will make this build easier. Have all my tools now,lol. Plus a mini mill from sherline. Wish me luck!

Edited by Tom Schongar
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Kmart, well to the connie club. I look forward to following along with your build. Don't hesitate to ask questions, but it has been a few years since I was at these steps.


Tom - go for it, and please start a build log when you do. i'll follow along with yours too.

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I had heard about the nonsymmetrical issue with some of the frames from other builds logs.  So I'm going to watch for them  when I put the reference lines on the frames.  Thanks for pointing me to your build you're log.   You have the best/clearest description of the problem I've seen.   I'll definitely use that info to fix mine.


TomS,  Also welcome to the Connie Club as well.    I think Me, you  and Markku will all be in roughly the same phase in the build together ...so it will be great encouragement and motivation.   Also search the forum.   There are a large number of Connie builds to draw knowledge and inspiration from.


I'll singe out usedtosail among many.  Check out his log..  He not only has a incredible build.. but he turned his log into a practicum for us to follow. :-)


No model pictures today, but I did make some progress.  I have the rest of the keel and stern-post glued on. 


Sad day for a sailor though... End of season,  My non-model boat got hauled for winter today. After Connie, I may need to make a model of her for the day I become Usedtosail II. but that's a long way off.


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Great start there, Kmart. I recall the issue that Markku mentions being raised back when I was starting my Connie build. The plans do show a difference between port and starboard sides on the bulkheads ... however, I took these to mean that the fairing line was shown on one side, and the full-size of the bulkhead shown on the other side. You'd need to trace/transfer those fairing lines to each bulkhead, although there's minimal difference as you move closer to the middle.

Looking forward to following along with the newer members of the Connie Club (Yes, I plan to get back to work on mine again very soon). 

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Thanks for the compliment, Kmart. I hope my log helps all of the next round of Connie builders. And you all will help the next round, etc. etc., as the previous builders helped me. It is a long journey for sure. I am getting close to 4 years on this build. But it is so rewarding.


And you are off to a great start.


And one more thing - if you haven't already, check out XKens build log of his Connie. A wealth of information is there.

Edited by usedtosail
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Sooo.  Does anyone know if Model Expo might have fixed the plans or bulkheads (or both)  since the asymmetrical bulkhead issue was identified?  

I ask because while I haven't checked them all... I spot checked a few bulkheads that were supposed to be the worst ones(B, C,D,E)....and mine look fine. I'm not seeing the issue.


CaptainSteve mentioned.. he thought one side of plan was different to show the beveled edge.   But if you look at my bulkhead D blueprint.

The bevel line is indicated on the right side. But also the full profile on both sides.   When I put the bulkhead on the plans... it matches  the full profile perfectly.

And again matches when I flip the bulkhead over.    The vertical center-line  is square and centered.


Did the original plans maybe only had the bevel on one side.  But in latter releases,  ME updated the plans to show both bevel and full profile?




Another quick non scientific test I did...  Again not precise but the error should be apparent by eye.

I dry fitted all the bulkheads.   and then sited down the center from stern looking forward.  (I left off the last bulkhead R that is solid)



If there was a misalignment of any one or more bulkheads...  then when looking straight down the deck,  The  center support posts (for spar deck) of any misaligned bulkhead should be obvious by not being directly inline.  But as you can see.... they align perfectly.  Not as  obvious from the pic.  but the horizontal top of both gun deck and spar deck also align and look perfectly parallel by eye.



Same goes for sighting down the spar deck.   all the bulwarks on both sides look even and symmetrical all the way down.  Again, I would think that if on was even slightly out of alignment.  it should really stick out and be apparent?  


Obviously this is not scientific, and I will cross check every bulkhead against the plans.    But I guess my point is,  my bulkheads seem to be in "perfect" alignment.

So Did I get really lucky (doubtful) or did ME fix the issue in later issues of the kit?   Or  was the issue intermittent / not consistent  across every kit?  Were there any other Connie build logs where the modeler didn't have the issue?


I'm expecting to see the error and looking for it.  but not finding it.  that makes me worried.








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Received my ship today! Along with the paint and stains, so other stuff. Most impotant was the magnifier light. I`m going to have to hook up my gopro to the big screen to see some of these parts,lol. Plans look good. parts all there. I will be starting this after the new year,still waiting on a few things and plan to get more detailed pics of ship,rigging ect. Ihave a lot of experience bulding aircraft from plans ,so this should be fun. just a pic of the plane i`m building for fun. 


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Run a few battens along the outsides of the bulkheads. If they are fairly lined up you should be OK. I had some that need quite a bit of shimming on the outside to fair to their neighbors. I don't know if ME fixed anything, but they might have.


As Captain Steve says, I cut off the spar deck supports where I place the gun deck and filed down the new bulkhead tops 1/8" so I had room for 1/16" solid underlayment and 1/16" planking for the gun deck.

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UsedToSail,   I went back and looked at your log again relative to the gun deck.    Looking at how you did it  is making me re-think my planned approach.

I like the tunneling you did.   really adds to the level of detail. And working on the false deck off the model makes it a lot easier to do a good job.    Not sure if I could pull that off the way I intend to to implement.  So you got me thinking how I might adapt. :-)


Generally,   I like to have all my gun ports open.  And as such, all the guns need to be real and on carriages.  I don't like the look of fake barrels (when the ports are open and its obvious they are fake).   I'm not detailing the whole gun deck.  Just near the open waist plus the real cannons.  But the deck does need to run the whole length to support the real cannons. 


My planned approach is to leave the bulkheads and top of the frame at the current height. Not cut them down.

I will cut the braces for the deck beams near the waist.  But I don't plan to cut the beams themselves off.

I am going to put struts between all the bulkheads to stiffen and strengthen them up and keep them square during the planking process.

Soo my thought is to have those struts basically act as the false deck fitting them flush with the top of the bulkheads and extend from the frame all the way out to the side of the hull.


For planking... I have strips left over from another build.  These are 1/64th inch thick (very thin. They were supposed to be a second planking layer) and I can cut these down to the proper width.  Since the tops of bulkheads are at deck level... My deck after planking will be 1/64" too tall.     (That will be invisible to tell by anyone including me... so its good enough  :-)


BUT,  then then gun barrels will now be too high and that will be noticeable.   And another problem I typically have with real carriages... is that the wheels are so small, there is barely enough surface area for glue to hold in place.  Then they break free later during the build when they get bumped. (and impossible to fix as its now enclosed in the lower deck.)    Sooo to solve both issues.. I was going to file a 1/64 flat on the bottom of the carriage wheels.   
The cannon will then sit at the right height and stick better to the deck.   I can also put a small shim under the carriage (same height as wheels to  further add surface area. 

That's my current plan.  Comments, suggestions, any potential issues you see that I might be missing?    


The downside of all this... is that with my fat fingers.. I cant get as much detail down in the waist ...working below and between those deck beams.

So thinking out loud.... is there a way to add simulated tunnels to the deck planks... before installing them?  And keep them lined up when laid down??

Any ideas?











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I think your plan sounds good. Having all real guns on the gun deck is a great goal and will really add to the details. I agree those fake barrels are lousy, which is why I closed the gun lids on them. By tunnels, I think you mean trunnels or treenails. Yes, I think you can simulate them by drilling holes in the planks and using wood filler to fill them, which is how I did mine anyway. The difference for your plan would be to line up the cut planks off the model, mark, drill and fill your treenails, then install the planks. Rigging the guns between the bulkheads might prove to be a bit challenging, but you could probably fake some of the rigging for the guns that will only show through the gun ports.

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Correct Usedtosail.    Trunnels.. Not tunnels.  (Wish I could blame Autocorrect on that :-) 

Other than the guns in the waist.   I don't plan on rigging the gun deck cannons.   I don't think any gun rigging would be visible peering through the gun port.   But I'll confirm that when I get to that point and decide then how much gun tackle (if any) to add.


Current progress is slow.  I'm eager to start gluing the bulkheads.  But this part needs to be right to have a good run of the hull and deck... so I'm taking my time.   Been going through each of the bulkheads and transferring lines. Bulkheads A- I face forward towards bow.   J - R Face aft.  That way the bevels go along with the sight bevel left by the lazer cutting of the frames.


So on each bulkhead.... I marked.

   1) vertical center line.   

    2) Center line on the top  of upper deck beam to align the king plank.

   2) Reference line "R" to match corresponding "R" line on frame

   3) Top of gundeck carried onto bulkwork and spar deck support post

   4) Marked the edges (both sides) for bevel



Round #2.   All the bulkheads marked up and back in the frame... Dry fitted only


By marking the top of the Gundeck on the support posts... I can line these up with the top of the frame.   And that should allow me to get the right height of all the bulkheads in the slots.


And I then put some battens on.. just to see how things line up.






The Battens show the run isn't perfect but not too bad either.

The run of the deck is really good.  Only some minor tweaking is needed.

A few bulkheads do need some shimming on their edges though.

Note: I marked but haven't beveled the edges yet so that could help the run a bit too, before I add shims.

I plan to both bevel and shim after the bulkheads are fixed in place.  



Other progress I made.   I did taper the stem and stern post.   And I also added the braces to the 2 joints in the frame (both sides)

I took a piece of basswood. cut to fit the full height and with between the adjacent bulkheads.   That way it not only does it add strength to the frame.  it also adds support to bulkheads on either side.



Last thing of note I did.

I have the CD from the US Constitution museum with the historic and restoration plans.  

Took that to staples and had them print the gun and spar deck layouts  scaled to fit to  24"x36"

Taped them to the wall.  Cool looking and great to reference.



Now its back to work Mon morning.  So no more time in workshop till next weekend.


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Next Update.

I went through all the bulkheads and tweaked /adjusted  mostly the height to make sure the top of the gun deck was flush with the top of the frame.

Then.. I started gluing the bulkheads in.  Starting from the stern with bulkhead R first.

Used a small square clamped to the frame to ensure the bulkhead is square.  It stayed in place  until glue dried.  Thus making the process slooowwwww.

A few minutes to prep and glue the bulkhead.   Then wait a few hours for glue to really set up.  Repeat.



Number 2 (Q)   I'm currently up to  bulkhead K.   



So, as I progressed with gluing bulkheads while glue was drying... I started to work ahead on those  struts that will go between the bulkheads and will stiffen up the frame, keep the bulkheads square and be the base for the gun-deck.    Started with some 2"x2x6"" basswood blocks I got at Michael's


Slices them into 5/16" thick slabs on my band saw..

Measured the distance between the adjacent bulkheads, cut pieces to fit  and...





Note the struts are not glued.  They are a snug fit.  (And only in place for bulkheads where glue is fully dry).

I used a digital calipers to make sure the pieces were the correct uniform width to fit between each bulkhead. 

Also ensured the matching piece on the other side was identical width.  That ensure it keeps bulkheads square.

Even without being glued in yet.  it really stiffens and strengthens the structure.


Now... I've run into a dilemma with those struts that I need to solve before I glue them in.

Looking at the plans.... there are scuppers and portholes shown below the gun-deck's, gun-ports..

IF those are located at or above or at the gun-deck level... all is good.

But looking the plan.   they might be just below the level of gun-deck.   If so... they would be right where those struts would be.

So scuppers and portholes looking into the end of the struts would not be good.




Next thing to solve. 

Because I'm doing an 1812 version with the open waist.  I need to cut out the support post for the spar deck beams in the area of the waist.

This is bulkheads E and K.  And then later remove/replace  the entire beams for bulkheads F,G, H,I J  ( similar to what UsedToSail did.)

I was thinking to remove them before gluing the bulkhead.   Thinking its much easier to do this first.  Soooo



But,  After removing the first one.  It does make the entire piece (beam and bulwarks) quite fragile.

So its probably better to leave them alone for now and cut them out later when I'm ready to start work on the waist.

However.. they're easy to break while cutting them now while unattached.  I'm concerned it will be even more susceptible to breaking when trying to cut them out later when there is far less room to work and  get at it with the tools....

What to do???











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The Battle of Solebay:  June 7th 1672


So..not related to my Connie build.

My Prior builds are the "West Friesland"  (a Dutch Ship)  and the HMS Victory Bow section.

Now I built a case sized for my Friesland.    But haven't  built one for Victory ..Yet.

I 've been worried that the Victory will get dusty, or worse bumped and broken.

So temporarily , I arranged them so they both fit into the  Friesland case.

Stood back... and realized..... I have a Diorama of the Battle of Solebay!!


Yes, I know they are different scales

Yes I know its a earlier Victory at Solobay .. not Nelson's

But since they are both represented....


We have...   The Battle of Solobay!










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  • 4 weeks later...

Time for progress update.


Gluing the frames..

After adding the glue.   used small squares on both sides to keep the bulkheads square to the keel.  Kept them there till glue dried.

which means this was a slow process. Only did 1 per day.


As I went along, I also cut and fit/glued the struts for the prior bulkheads that was glued the day before.

I measured the distance between the two bulkheads along the center line.   Used that measurement to cut the width of the struts.

That guaranteed the struts are same width on both sides (port/starboard)  and the end set square against the frame.

This ensured all the bulkheads  were dead parallel and square.

Also note, they were glued level with the top of the bulkhead gun deck beams.  thus giving me a false deck.








They took awhile to add but the Struts  really add a lot of strength and rigidity to the whole structure.   Frames don't flex or move at all. 

Also keeps the keel from warping.



Starting to wok on the bow filler.

Drew the pattern that faces against the bulkhead A on the blocks.   Then cut out on a bandsaw




Notice the two pieces of wood above the over the filler pieces.

So the filler is supposed to have several notches cut into the top.   I figured i can't cut them in until the pieces are shaped to fit first.

But once shaped.. I'll have no way to hold the pieces square against a drill press or desk  making it hard to accurately cut the notches.

Soo, my thought is.   Make the bow filler as the plan indicates.. but cut them 1/4 inch lower than the top of the gun deck.   Then add these two 1/4 inch pieces on top.    As those pieces are flat on top and bottom will be much easier to cut in the notches.... then just glue them on as the top part of the filler.


Next I drew the pattern on the adjacent  side ( that is against the keel)  side and traced the rabbit onto the block.

And then cut that out on band saw as well.

The blocks was then very roughly in the proper shape in all three dimensions. 



Next I used a Dermal tool with sanding drum and sanded it to the final shape.

Good news is they look very symmetrical.  However, when I fit to the ship, 

it looks like too much curvature in the horizontal plane.   I'll do a bit more sanding till I think it looks right.

but they are getting close.   Once done I'll tackle the top piece with the notches





Thats all for now.



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OK  spent a lot more time cleaning up the bow filler blocks than I thought I'd need.  They are as good as there going to get and ready to be glued  on.



Now,  Due to poor planning, had to do the first surgery on the boat.  

As I'm going to have the open waist, I'll model whats visible underneath on the gun deck.  That is a set of gratings.  I'm going to cut up and use the kit gating that are not needed on the spar deck.  I was just going to box around the gratings and put down on the deck.

.... However..looking at the CD plans...




There are several open stairways down to the Birthing deck.    Well that means I need to add ladders and at least look like there is something below.

Soo that means I need to cut holes in the false deck

And then put a floor bellow that that the ladder will rest on


II had to cut part of the bulkhead and part of the frame where the stairs will pass through.

The aft stairs run parallel to the ship and go through one of the bulkheads.





The forward stars run athwart ship and pass through the frame,

Wow .. in the picture the run of the false deck looks wavy.   But that's an illusion.    (I've quadruple checked them :-)





Ill paint the boxs later. 




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Next Update

I added a stringer on the underside of the spar deck beams.

Reason for this is that I will cut out several of the deck beams center support in order to detail the gun deck under the open waist

The stringer will help make the beams less fragile.

Second  because some of the beams over the center grating area don't match the actual beam positions from the plans.  And the grating will be left open.  these beams need to be replaced/moved with beams in the proper location.   The stringers will be used to support the beams.





Moved on to the bow frame area

Notches cut for the bow frame


I added strips on either side of the stem  just behind the bevel.  This is to add a bit more surface area to plank against


I added a strip of wood just under the deck beam on A.  This will support the filler piece that supports the bow frames,

Also, I made the filler piece bigger than the instructions show.  I made it square against frame A and resting on the wood strip I added.






With the ports framed in ... Both gun and spar deck




Yes , I know starboard side is higher. There is enough wood  there  that I'll sand it down to be level.

The ports are actually at the same height and all square even though they don't look it in the picture.


Next up... the stern framing.  but that's for my next post.





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