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Steamboat Arabia 1856 by Cathead - Scale 1:64 - sidewheel riverboat from the Missouri River, USA

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I would vote for that too.  It’s the mid west’s turn.  My first choice would be at the largest port on the Great Lakes- Duluth, Minnesota but since I don’t think that that is going to happen, I would get behind Kansas City.  I used to travel there on business and it’s a great city.

 

Roger

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Unfortunately it’s an expensive place to get to if you are not driving.  Our friends living in major airline markets are astonished at the air fares in and out of Duluth.  Otherwise, we have a great selection of places to stay, some really unique conference venues, two and possibly three museum ships, a nice maritime museum and a working waterfront.

 

Roger

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Boiler deck planking is mostly done:

Arabia_9a.jpg.e931297e48f9f6977b175b21ca4219b2.jpg

The blank spot in the center is where the cabins will go, I'm not showing the interior of these so there's no need to plank this carefully. As the underside of the deck is vaguely visible if you look from just the right angle, I used sheets of pre-scribed wood for this to mimic just enough planking in the shadows.

 

For the visible planking, I stained the individual strips using the same vinegar/rust mixture I've used before on this model, then rubbed each plank with subtly different shades of pastels. This produced a nice variation effect and was a lot faster than painting. I'll sand the whole surface down when it's done, blending them together a bit more.

 

If you were wondering why this deck isn't red, too, there are three reasons. First, this is the only other deck that will be visibly planked (everything above this will be covered with tar paper), and I thought it would look interesting in a more raw wood state, a bit of visual variability. Second, as this deck is mostly covered by the decks above and doesn't get as much use as the main deck (for things like cargo handling), I decided it didn't need the extra coat of red paint. Third, I'm out of red paint and don't want to buy another whole bottle when I might not use the rest for a year or more.

Arabia_9b.JPG.47d960cc363957618ef50822b7a1a04d.JPG

Here's a closer look at the foremost part of the boiler deck, showing where the chimneys and main stairwell come through. You may notice that the former look a bit off-kilter. That's because they are. I didn't get the boilers lined up perfectly and these were not quite aligned the way I wanted them, so I built up the area around them to make them parallel again. This will be entirely invisible once the chimneys are sitting on top.

 

You can also see some places where glue leaked through the planking. I was trying to be careful, but using unpainted thin wood makes it super-sensitive to glue spills. I don't think it'll be very noticeable once the next deck is covering this and all the railings are one. I was still annoyed by this, though, no matter how hard I tried the occasional bead came seeping up through and trying to wipe it off just made the area bigger.

 

Along with this, I'm starting to lay out the main cabin superstructure. It's quite complicated and will take me a while to get right, along with probably some annoying mistakes and do-overs. I'll try to take more photos; I didn't take many of the planking process because it's so straightforward.

 

Thanks for reading. We're heading for the first real heat wave of summer here, so maybe some extra focus on modelling for a bit.

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Looks good, Eric.  As for the "misalignment" on the stacks, I'd say even the full size ship had "alignment" issues.  It's barely noticeable until pointed out.  Same for the glue "blotches".  

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Posted (edited)

Eric,

 

I definitely like the look of the deck. I’m a sucker for natural wood. Hence the reason I went with the unstained/unpainted finish on my Chaperon build. 

 

As for the glue seeping through when planking, how are you fastening your planks down? I use CA with a fine point applicator on the bottle. I just run a thin line down the center of the board and place the plank over it. Very rarely do I have any “seepage” this way. Of course you pre-stained your planks before applying them whereas I glued them down then sanded and varnished them which pretty much erases all glue traces. 

 

Either way, the outcome looks fantastic and from what I can see the seepage is not even noticeable. 

 

-Brian

Edited by mbp521

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Brian,

 

I'm using wood glue because (a) I've heard mixed reviews about the longevity of CA and (b) it's more benign to be around, which is important to me. CA gives me a headache pretty quickly, while I can use wood glue all night long. Unlike Chaperon, I'm not gluing planks to a smooth surface but just to the very thin cross beams above the main deck, so spreading glue along the bottom of the plank would (a) waste a lot of glue and (b) create a really ugly under-surface as the boiler deck can be seen from below. So what I'm doing is placing small dots of glue on each beam and then settling the plank over it.

 

What's happening isn't seepage directly up through the plank, it's bits of glue squeezing upward in the seams between planks, then soaking in from the side or top. It creates the little darker patches you can see if you look closely at the planking photos. The best approach is just to be really careful in how much glue is used, but sometimes I get it wrong or it gets up there anyway. Also, early on I made the mistake of trying to wipe it up right away, which just spread wet glue further over the absorbent surface and made the spot bigger. I think it's better to let any beads dry and then scrape/sand them away. The core problem is that the planks aren't sealed in any way, and soft basswood is really absorbent. But that's the price of doing the individual planking the way I like it done in this case (i.e., without paint). Given that most of this will be under another anyway and only seen in partial shadow from the side, I don't think most people will notice. It would cost me points in any model competition for sure, but as that's not my goal it's ok.

 

Thanks for the feedback, it's nice to have other steamboat modellers on board. My brain is already working ahead to thinking about trying Chaperon and customizing it various ways to backdate it to a mid-century Missouri River sternwheeler, and the more build logs there are the more I learn about the kit.

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I would let the white glue set to a rubbery consistency and then scrape/peel it off. Too early, then it smears around (as you noticed) - too late, then you may rip out fibres of the wood.

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I took a break from planking to work on the boiler deck structures (i.e, the main cabin). This is complicated as it contains multiple curved deck levels above and a raised central skylight running along most of its length. I started by drawing out the shapes of the fore- and aft-most walls, since they define the curve of the hurricane deck (the third one up, after main and boiler). 

 

I decided to use pre-scribed wood for the cabin walls at this level for three reasons. First, they need to be especially structurally solid given their complexity and I can get their shapes more similar using solid pieces. Second, they won't be as visible as the main superstructure walls because they'll be more hidden under overhanging decks. Third, I've been underestimating my strip wood use and this gets expensive to keep reordering, whereas I have plenty of scribed stock sitting around. So that's how it is.

Arabia_9c.JPG.3a1181bba90dbc3c0f722cfbd62ed2e4.JPG

Fore (left) and aft (right) main cabin walls with handmade doors. The ribs along the top provide extra support for the next deck up. I put the worse of the two doors on the fore cabin wall as this will be especially well-hidden under a deep and long overhang, where as the aft one will be a lot more visible.

Arabia_9d.jpg.c37c513f84356e89e22d2c4cbe68dddf.jpg

I made the doors by tracing the oval windows (using a dowel for the curve), drilling out their outlines, then cutting and sanding the hole. I then attached thin strips of wood to make the framing, as seen in the first photo.

 

Arabia_9e.jpg.9abc62f131395268b533b90c7c14e925.jpg

Here they are painted and installed in the walls. The third piece (upper right) sits a bit forward of the aft wall because the skylight doesn't run all the way back. This will be clearer when I get further along in the build. Next step on these is glassing the windows and adding some curtains to block the view, as I don't want to show any interior. These are the doors that access the main dining/social cabin that runs the length of this structure; the lower portions to either side house the individual cabins, kitchen, and other areas that are accessed from doors on the outer and inner walls. Here's a cross-section of a typical sidewheeler from Wikimedia Commons in case it helps clarify what I'm working on here (the area above the boilers):

 

656px-Steamboat_diagram_cross-section_18

Arabia_9f.jpg.60eb4423a4a541e85502c37d82efbbd2.jpg

As a preview, here's the aft-most wall propped up in its intended location. I like how these came out; they were a good test for the even more complicated task of building the long side walls full of cabin doors and other details, which is next. Thanks for reading!

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I worked on the main cabin walls this week. Here's a small bit I made to test out my intended method:

 

Arabia_9g.thumb.jpg.2f72fe04117da1bd946bce8575f35ba1.jpg

It's pretty straightforward, just panels of scribed wood spaced below the upper window assembly, which keeps the whole thing straight. I made the doors the same way as before, by drilling holes and then finishing with knife and file. I have to make lots of these and they're pretty fiddly, but I listen to an audiobook and it goes pretty smoothly. Close-up, you can see some rough edges that I've been having a hard time fully smoothing down, but they seem to blend into the background when viewed beyond a camera lens.

 

Here's the rest of the starboard outer wall:

Arabia_9h.jpg.ac568062e0079e1dd81c27fc10d90f51.jpg

All the doors are made and painted but I haven't installed them yet. The backing strips holding this together and straight are scrap from past wooden kits (the stuff around laser-cut parts); I have a whole box of this stuff because I hate throwing things away, and it comes in really handy here as it's straight and strong but doesn't cost me anything.

 

Here's the wall loosely placed on the model for visual inspection:

 

Arabia_9i.JPG.4bd20e5711c694f960cfe8da588c5790.JPG

Certainly gives the right idea. I think this came out well and the next one will go faster now that I have the method down. Thanks for reading.

 

 

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Very nice work Eric, she is really starting to take shape! 

 

When you say that you use prescribed wood, is this something that you purchase or is it just plain panels that you scribe yourself instead of planking? Just curious. If it is purchased prescribed I'd like to get a hold of some. It would save a lot of time, not to mention come in handy for those "mishaps" that tend to show up from time to time. 

 

I'm also with you on the scrap pieces of wood, I throw nothing away. You never know when you are going to need it. I have a tub full of small scrap pieces as well as a box full of the larger ones. Not to mention, I like the idea of using other parts of previous builds on current ones. Kinda like a friendship cake. A little bit of this model goes into the next one and so on.

 

-Brian

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Brian,

 

It's purchased from Northeastern Scale Lumber, which primarily supplies model railroaders. All my stock is leftover from when that was my primary hobby focus, I built a lot of my own buildings. They have a wide array of different siding styles (boards, clapboard, board and batten, etc.) in different widths. Well worth checking out.

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Eric,

 

Thanks for the link. I can definitely see an extremely big hole in the budget with this site. May have to hide the bank statements from the Admiral on this one. 😁

 

-Brian

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It'll make you want to build models in 1:87, that's for sure. That and the widespread availability of window/door castings, figures, and other such things were a major factor in deciding to build the Bertrand in that unusual (for ship models) scale. Well, that and I wanted to display it on my model railroad depicting a late 1850s Missouri River town.

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So if you're wondering why it's been three weeks since an update, it's partly because I've been working on another wood project: a cedar chest to wool sweaters and other moth-prone treasures. This is made from Eastern Red Cedar cut & milled on our property; if you look closely you'll see some chatter marks from the bandsaw mill that I couldn't get fully sanded out (I don't have a planer). Mrs. Cathead actually likes it that way, as a reminder that it's from our place and not just random wood. It's been sucking up a lot of my project time but is finally done.

cedar_chest.jpg.bac251cfc44f4ada130852e944676bf5.jpg

But with that done, it's back to the Arabia. I finished all the walls for the main cabin, including "glassing" them with clear plastic and attaching pieces of scrap red felt from Mrs. Cathead's sewing supplies for curtains (i.e., viewblocks to the unfinished interior). I added handles to the doors in the same way as on the main deck (by drilling in small pieces of black wire) and drew on hints of hinges with a fine-tipped market. So here's what she looks like with the outer main cabin walls permanently installed:

 

Arabia_9j.JPG.c2cc8b3885069599d65a85b353956275.JPG

Arabia_9k.jpg.90ae476e38308a5ba9ccc8e32c6bf1d3.jpg

Arabia_9l.jpg.55510e3f70203e2c2d6cdd3d6c6e0042.jpg

Arabia_9m.jpg.c4232e4f8671b11e94a40f0d5ac86c6b.jpg

 

I have to say, I think she looks pretty cool. Next up is starting to install the more delicate supports for the center clerestory windows and the various roof beams; this will tie into building the upper paddleboxes.

 

In other news, there's a new steamboat build log to check out if you want: Tom in NC is giving a new twist to the classic Chaperon kit by re-imagining it as a prohibition-era den of vice. Also, while researching a question in Brian's Chaperon build, I discovered that newspapers.com is a great resource for finding contemporary news clippings about steamboats. For example, here are two notices about the Arabia's sinking that appeared in the Louisville (KY) Daily Courier and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Note the time delay for news in those days; she sank on September 5, 1856, but the Louisville notice appeared September 10 (with a September 9 byline from St. Louis) and the New Orleans notice appeared on September 17.

 

We'll see if progress is more steady for a while with that cedar chest out of the way. As always, thanks for reading.

 

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Eric,

 

Beautiful chest. We are surrounded by cedar trees and have an overabundance of them on our property. I have often though about purchasing a sawmill and harvesting some of the timber for closet lining and other misc projects that the Admiral can come up with, just haven't had the opportunity.

 

Your Arabia, is really starting to take shape. It won't be too long before the winter drives you inside and you can dedicate more time to her. I know I'm looking forward to cooler weather. Nothing like spending a cold day in the shipyard, throwing a football game on the TV and kicking back making sawdust.

 

BTW: Thank you for the great link on the newspapers. All sorts of interesting stories.

 

-Brian

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Brian, you may be able to hire a mill instead. We do all the timber work ourselves but hire out the milling because we only mill 1-3 times a year and don't feel like storing and maintaining a 30' trailer the rest of the time. Our folks just drive down in here with their portable mill, blast through a pile of logs in a day or less, and leave me with a big stack of lumber for projects (or sale in some productive years). Check various online listings or forums, I bet there's someone with a portable mill in your region.

 

As for weather, sometimes it's the other way around. I'm a northerner who doesn't care for hot, humid summers but will spend far more time outdoors in the fall and winter, especially doing timber work. But the days are short enough that long evenings happen anyway, so there's that.

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I started working out how best to build the hurricane deck (also known as the roof of the main cabins) and quickly realized I would need to work out exactly where, and what size, the hurricane deck cabins would be. That, in turn, meant I needed to do the same for the pilot house on top. So I changed plans and started building the rest of the superstructure first, since once that's in place it'll be easier to build the remaining decks around it.

 

Arabia_9n.jpg.397fb4c4adc85b82f91c53c102f90bc7.jpg

Above are the hurricane deck cabins. I made them exactly the same way as the boiler deck cabins, so didn't take any new photos of the process. The blocky beams are a special support structure for the pilot house, which I built as a separate unit that can be slotted into place, like this:

 

Arabia_9o.jpg.cb5bf69777ac443217983fcda13f8e2f.jpg

Doing this made it a lot easier to work on each piece separately and will be especially helpful for adding lots of interior detail to the pilot house. Below is a shot of the pilot house removed, showing the interior bracing that slots into the beams atop the hurricane deck cabin.

 

Arabia_9p.jpg.b780b508841cc077d77b2af4529e5f0a.jpg

Next up, I worked on the hurricane cabin roof. Because this deck has some curvature to it, I used scrap pieces of scribed wood (scribing side down) as this takes a curve easily. This roof/deck would have been covered in strips of tar paper. Kurt Van Dahm's digital book on building Chaperon has a nice tip on how to simulate this, using strips of silkspan attached to a surface with matte medium and painted; it looks quite realistic. Having neither on hand, I made up my own adaption. I cut strips of masking tape to appropriate widths, smeared wood glue thinly on the roof surface, then carefully laid the masking tape strips with just a tiny bit of overlap at the seams. As a bonus, the moisture of the glue made the wood warp just about perfectly for the required curve! Below you see an upper and lower view of two such pieces; the lighting makes it hard to see the detail but hopefully it's clear enough.

 

Arabia_9q.jpg.2283a4d7f0c72675e4565b25a691a9cc.jpg

I used masking tape on my Bertrand to simulate the metal cladding on the chimneys, and it looked really good when painted and has yet to budge (I didn't even use glue that time). So I was confident it'd work here. After painting, the tape has a really nice rough texture and just a little bit of crinkling that looks pretty realistic. I trimmed the tape on all sides, then cut the pilot house gap out of the forward piece and test-fit them.

Arabia_9s.jpg.88530174380511bbbd51270323974b5c.jpg

Look closely and you'll see that I screwed up. I measured the width of the cut against the outer walls of the cabin, not the slightly narrower pilot house itself. After some roustabout phraseology, I quickly decided I could apply the old modeller's trick of "add useless but benign detail to cover up a mistake" and glued two thin strips of wood to either side of the pilot house, filling the gap nicely.

Arabia_9t.jpg.caf9c5630e5739a82c2277f6ef1a8baf.jpg

I like how this looks (note that this is only a test fit). The masking tape has a good texture and you can just see the seams. I'll use the same technique for the much larger hurricane deck once it's laid down. In the meantime, there's a lot of pilot house detail to make, including some very small-paned windows (not sure how I'm going to scratchbuild these, especially if I want "glass" in them) and a proper wheel (I want to try the method used by Brian for his Chaperon, if I don't like the results I'll order one from Syren). I think I'll try and finish the pilot house next, so that this whole assembly can be attached permanently before I start building out the rest of the hurricane deck. Not my original plan, but it's working out fine.

 

Finally, on a separate note, as a treat for my 40th birthday (actually tomorrow) we spent last weekend in Kansas City attending the big Irish music festival there and doing some other fun things. I thought some folks would be interested in seeing the ASB Bridge over the Missouri River. This is a pretty unique design (I think there's only a few others in the world) using a double-deck setup in which the lower level (carrying rail lines) raises by telescoping into the upper level (carrying cars and streetcars), allowing river traffic to pass without disrupting the upper deck. It was completed in 1911 and still carries rail traffic, though a newer road bridge was built just to the east in 1987 to carry road traffic.

 

ASB_Bridge.jpg.ae57b669f1efc0fa50df7137a572752c.jpg

Just upstream, another active rail bridge:

 

KC_bridge.jpg.1576601a92e8b3d2b247934925970708.jpg

Shipping on the Missouri River is very minor these days, but rail traffic in KC is alive and well; the city's riverfront trail is a great place to set up for train-watching while the river rolls by. In these photos it's still pretty swollen from the heavy spring and summer rains; you can see a big jam of woody debris against one of the bridge piers. The Arabia sank less than 10 miles upstream from here.

Edited by Cathead

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checking on your progress Eric....and boy.....you have done some amazing work!   such wonderful detail :)    the second level really looks nice........I have Northeast scale Lumber bookmarked.  I found it when I was doing some research on the Ambroid company,  which is what they were called back when they made model train kits,  along with the scribed wood.   Arabia is coming along nicely.....the history is really interesting too :) 

 

great job! 

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Thanks, popeye!

 

This week's accomplishment was finishing the pilot house, which ended up being a fun little mini-model that I documented in a fair amount of detail. It was nice to take a break from the larger model and just focus on this one feature. I put a lot of detail into this since it's a visual focus point of the whole vessel.

 

First, I built the wheel by laying out very thin strips of wood on double-sided tape and carefully fitting in braces around the circumference. When I liked what I had, I painted it. It's not as clean as if I'd bought a similar-sized one from Syren, but I liked doing it myself and its slightly rough style fits the rest of the model. This thing was super-delicate and I almost didn't get it off the tape in one piece.

 

Arabia_9u.jpg.51b127e151bed936b96db975b3c1f823.jpg

I then mounted the wheel in the pilot house, slotted into the floor the way all steamboat wheels were:

 

Arabia_9v.jpg.2d857aaa29cba5c582c64627661a04de.jpg

Next, I built the windows using the same very fine strips and a lot of careful cutting and patience:

 

Arabia_9w.jpg.3582262a81fdfff1ca2cefd6209ebe1a.jpg

After painting, I carefully glued sheets of clear plastic to the inside. My first attempt, I apparently used too much CA and it crazed the plastic, so I very carefully scraped the plastic off with a razor blade and tried again. I actually couldn't believe I got away with that, I was sure the window frame would shatter. The second time stuck with no crazing. I then added various internal details to the pilot house before gluing in the windows and door:

 

Arabia_9x.jpg.0efcdb26ef84259b3526c60557a84394.jpg

Details include a small wood stove, a basic spittoon, a small bench, the hinged "bridle" that pilots used to hold the wheel in place if they needed to step away (next to the wheel at right), and two pull ropes for engine control. I ran these on criss-crossing lines as shown in various sources. The glue dried on the left-hand one a little weird; I'm saying a breeze is catching it through the open front window. The rods the lines are hanging off of are belaying pins from an old kit; the handles are parrell beads from same. There are a few other very small controls that could be added, but this thing is tiny and you'd never be able to see them clearly through the windows, so I decided this was enough to capture the proper feel. For a size comparison, the Chaperon model is in 1:48 scale while Arabia is in 1:64; this pilot house is ~1.5" to a side (~3.5 cm).

Arabia_9y.jpg.6316dd981c6482fbd5e617c9b3b6c976.jpg

At the front, I added the hinged/swinging shades that could be used to close off the normally open pilot house front during bad weather. Once I was happy with the internal detail, I added the rafters and the roof, which I made using the same masking-tape technique described in a previous post. This roof needed to be held down securely; three rubber bands took care of the edges but the top was bulging up too much, so I balanced a rock on it. Looks like she's bringing home a major geological sample from the Montana gold fields!

 

Arabia_9z.jpg.e95a98ae24849aa048632f6e09851110.jpg

And here's the finished pilot house with roof and stove chimney. I guess it's not 100% finished as I still need to add whistles, but it's close enough to move on from for now.

 

Arabia_9za.jpg.93b0950f7b59051e4c58b08415907769.jpg

This was really fun. Hope you like it.

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John,

 

The large wheels provided the necessary leverage for controlling the rudder(s), run manually by lines from the pilot house (if you look closely, you can see the ropes wrapped around the wheel's axle). As I understand it, American vessels eventually converted over to steam-powered steering, meaning the wheels got a lot smaller when mechanical leverage was no longer relevant, but Arabia was built well before that development. I wish I knew more about Australian steamboats, but is it possible they developed later and thus started out with non-mechanical steering and thus small wheels?

 

For reference, here's a photo of the Arabia's original tiller and the block that held the ropes from the wheel way up in the pilot house:

 

Arabia_stern_6.jpg

The other end pokes out of the stern to hold the rudder:

 

Arabia_stern_3.jpg

Mark,

 

I owe a clear debt to Kurt and Alan Bates for the clear diagrams and information they provided on pilot houses, as well as Brian's Chaperon which I consulted closely given the awesome job he did on a detailed pilot house.

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Eric,

 

I'm loving your Pilot House and Hurricane deck build. She's just about topped out. The pilot house was one of my favorite parts of my Chaperon build. The model kit left me with a blank slate to do with as I please so I took full advantage of it.

 

I often wonder why they call it a hurricane deck though. As on the Chaperon, it's not really much of a deck but rather a nice source of natural lighting for the boiler deck.

 

...and I definitely wouldn't want to be on board a steamboat in a Hurricane. JS

 

-Brian

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