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Can this hull be saved? (US Brig Lawrence)

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I am modeling US Brig Lawrence essentially from scratch, based on the Model Shipways Niagara kit plans. It is a solid hull, with my first attempt at planking any hull. I am pleased with the way the planking turned out (pic below prior to sanding)...


...but am struggling with the finish. 

I wanted to achieve several things:

  I wanted to use pine for the planking since that’s what the original ship was planked with

  I wanted the planking detail to show thru (otherwise, why go to the trouble of planking ... just paint a solid hull)

  I wanted to somehow evoke the idea that Lawrence might not have been painted at all, since she was built in what was essentially a wilderness at the time. 


Maybe these goals are are mutually exclusive. At any rate, I’ve been attempting the finish, and through the process am now at a point that I’m not sure what to try next. 


After final sanding of the planking, I applied a mix of gray and black stain, and wiped it down. 


it wasn’t as dark as I wanted, so applied another coat of black stain. This time I waited longer before wiping it down. I was fairly satisfied with the color at this point. I had seen a post by a modeler from Germany in these forums (unfortunately, since removed) of a finish I liked that used a final coat of TruOil. On the exterior planking and the ceiling of my bulkheads I used Osage Orange and Redheart, finished with TruOil, and really liked the effect. 


So, after staining the hull planking, I applied TruOil. But, it was too dark and too much glare for the hull. 


I tried to dull it down by using steel wool, but it was still not right. 


Then I attacked it more aggressively with steel wool and sand paper, taking it down to almost nothing. 


This is where it stands at the moment. I like the detail that is visible in the planking ...


...but would still like the overall to be darker. But, I have concerns in taking the next step. 

First, I’ll bet there is still some TruOil lingering in places ... would stain or paint stick?  Second, the stain can says do not thin, so I’d have to wipe on and off, which might take off some of what is already there, and be even more blotchy. Third, the spaces between planks are already filling, and if I use some finish that is not transparent, I think I’ll lose the detail. Last, there is a limit to how much I can sand it down ... 1/16” thick planks before they were initially planed and sanded, and sanded again. 


The second pic above was closest to where I wanted to be, if a bit darker. 


So, can this hull be saved?


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I'm sorry to read of your experiments and trials. I can't answer your question as to whether the planking can be saved, but suggest that any time you want to try out a new finish, do it on scrap wood first. It will save you having to face this situation ever again.

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Having built a number of models myself, I know that every mistake I make, and don’t fix or replace, stand out to me (even though nobody else would notice). For that reason, if it were my model, I would sand and strip the affected area back and redo it. Put it down to experience and since you have not planked a Hull before, take advantage of the chance to practise and develop your planking skills. Take Druxey’s advice and always test your stain on a piece of the SAME timber next time. This way when  you finally finish you will be much happier with your model than you would be if it is compromised by such a large boo boo. 

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Steve at this point I might try the following. But I would recommend you experiment off the hull first. Lay up some planking of the same material on a flat service. Treat is as you did on the model. Then sand it down as "hornet" recommends. Then experiment with Trans Tint dyes. Instead of water use alcohol on the experimental plate. Given the "oil" application I would be tempted to wash/wipe the hull down after sanding with lacquer thinner to remove as much of your overcoat that penetrated. You can mix these dyes and get just about any tint you wish. That may (or not) give you a colored substrate of more even coverage. Pine, cherry and even maple and some other woods can give blotchy and unpleasant surface coverage when stained.


Other possible options within the reovery process; Kilz Sanding Sealer, wood bleach (be careful with this as it removes the tannin in the wood and gives a very dull washed out surface which must be colored again. I did an oak tool chest that had awful grease, rust and dirt on it. But once finished correctly it was quite a different piece.


Good Luck!



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To answer your primary question- being literal = yes

If you can't get the "brindle" effect reversed to satisfaction, and if you are

near a Wood Craft outlet, check out their selection of veneer.  Something

like a thin Beech to overlay what you have.  It could be dyed before being

laid - a dye will not affect PVA bonding. 

Super blonde shellac with or without Tung oil = a bit more control over surface


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Druxey and hornet:  Some of my frustration stems from the fact that I did create a test panel. But, I can surmise several reasons the hull planking differed from the test planking:

I can’t  say for certain that the wood used on both was from the same board, although both were clear white pine;

Altho I used the same proportions, the stain used on both was mixed at different times;

Who knows if when wiping down with a cloth I used the same pressure?

Finally, the test panel was small, about 2”x4”. Maybe there is a difference in the appearance of small vs large (think:  that dinky paint chip against the final color of the living room). 


Thistle17:  I am reluctant to use chemical on my planking, not knowing how they might affect the PVA below. But, I’ll reserve those steps if all else fails. 


I decided to take the advice of sanding down again. Concerned about how much wood I had left, I probed the planking with a pin and decided that in most places I had more than I thought. So, I brutally attacked with 60 grit sandpaper. 


Then I worked up with 100, 150, 350, and 600 grit paper and a rub with 0000 steel wool. Then I mixed my stain in a ratio of 4:2:1 ebony, walnut and gray, and applied.  Used a dry brush to wipe off excess after drying for ten minutes.  


Except for a couple blotches near the keel, I got the color I want (put another way, the color I’m keeping). 


But this model has much more work to go, so, keeping chemical treatment and veneering in my pocket for now, I need to protect the surface against greasy fingerprints and rub off during the handling ahead. I won’t be using TruOil (that’s a lesson learned!). 


So ... the question now is:  Shellac, satin polyurethane, or paste wax?


Advice welcomed. 




Edited by Srodbro
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Nice looking hull, Steve.   I think you've got it.   


As for finsih... I'm pretty much a wipe on poly type of guy.  The problem will come when things need to be glued to the hull where the poly is.  You'll need to sand, scrape or the glue will not adhere to the hull.  Do you have a stand you put her in until the outer hull has it's goodies attached?

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There is considerable debate about what Lawrence and Niagara may have looked like and materials of construction. In spring and summer of 1813, both Brits and Americans suffered severe shortages of men and materials on Lake Erie. Lawrence and Niagara were both constructed of green locally harvested timbers (unlike contemporaries like Constitution and her sisters, which could use materials like live oak from Georgia and Florida). Most materials were either stolen from the Brits, or laboriously hauled overland from Baltimore, and up to Erie, Pa via wagon and small streams. Both brigs were built mostly by house carpenters rather than shipwrights, and even they were directed to not do something unless essential ... they were only intended to engage in a single battle, and not have a long life. Walter Rybka in his book The Lake Erie Campaign of 1813, says:

Due to the shortage of oakum, the below-waterline seams of the Niagara and Lawrence were partially caulked with sheet lead.

So, I’m of the opinion that Lawrence looked nothing as “finished” as typically depicted in paintings or most models. Of course, that’s speculation, and I’m not making my model as “raw” as I think the may have been. 

Thanks for the comment. 

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Interesting on your final choice on this hull. I agree on much of your historical choices/reasoning mostly because when these ships were built they were under a very strict deadline and getting them done in time probably promoted more than one 'get-er-done' and 'good enough' decision along the line in order to make them battle worthy in time.


As for possible corrections to the finish you were unhappy with or with any other finish for that matter, have you ever considered trying normal household bleach? I have used it in some furniture refinishing projects in years past to deal with things like rings left in the wood even after stripping the finish. Never tried it on pine but it might work the same way.



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Thank you. Yes, exactly to my point :  Considerable debate. 



Pic below is how I secured my hull while working topside during an earlier stage of the build. At the expense of three or four small screw holes in the hull, I get almost absolutely secure support in a bench vice for all the work ahead. Might even be able to use the holes in a future display mount. 


I think the only major hull attachments will be the channels and chain plates, which can be reinforced with pins or small dowels driven deep through the bulwarks, and other attachments made the same way, driven into the solid hull under the planking (I have the luxury of not having to hit individual bulkheads; also, the space between the exterior bulwarks planking and the ceiling on my model is solid wood). Although I still intend to scrape away the finish and use adhesive, as well. 



Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll need the bleach, now, but will keep the thought for future reference (I still have deck planking to consider). 

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