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Virginia Privateer by David Lester - Marine Model Co. - Restoration of approx. 60 yr. old model - FINISHED


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Hello Everyone and Happy New Year!

Over the past couple of days, I've begun my restoration of this old model. At the outset I didn't know how much, if any, of the rigging could be saved, but after some time with it I decided to cut it all out and start over. Where the spars are broken, it had become hopelessly tangled. As well many of the knots were letting go and the lines felt very brittle, so I spent the better part of a day of examining it and making copious notes before I cut it all out.

 

Next on the list was a thorough cleaning of the deck and hull. It was coated in decades of dust. In the process, some additional damage occurred, but in many ways, I'm better off having it all happen now as it's easier to repair then it would be later. The type of thing I'm talking about here is fife rails coming loose and the edging on the hatches and the roof on the skylight coming off. These were made with cardstock, so I'll replace them with some 1/32" wood.

 

I salvaged all of the blocks, deadeyes etc. by soaking them in some rubbing alcohol and releasing them from the lines.

 

I've taken stock of the repairs that have to be made - the main one is the chunk that's broken out of the port side bulwarks, some missing railing, missing cathead, broken jibboom, broken tressle trees on the main mast, fife rails, hatch trim and skylight roof, as well as return the cannons. When I received the model, over half the cannons were missing. However, over Christmas, I saw the friend who gave me the model and he had found them, so I have the full compliment.

 

I'm particularly fond of the deck on this model, so I am going to give it a coat of polyurethane to protect if from the likely possibility of paint, glue and/or coffee being spilled on it.

 

I had hoped at the outset that I would only be doing very minor touch ups, but the closer I look, the more I realize I will need to do. I think I will have to repaint virtually the whole model. For example, take a look at the photo of the yard below. I just can't return it with the white tip looking like that. That's a combination of a sloppy glue job plus 60 years of dust and cigarette smoke. 

 

David

5a4c33422f351_DSCN1711(Custom).JPG.2ad2d194830c62a943810b60753b722b.JPGthe major damage is this break. Thankfully, the piece is not missing

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the skylight roofs and hatch trim are made of cardstock

 

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example of how it needs to be cleaned up

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soaking the blocks etc. loose

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the rigging stripped off - no turning back now

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the deck is almost clean now, notice how the cardstock pieces did not survive the cleaning

Edited by David Lester
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Looks like fun David. I just finished a 75 year old restore for a family friend.I know what you mean about the dust build up. Oddly enough, saliva makes a great cleaner and dissolved old glue very well.

 

I'm curious if you can determine what kind of line was used for the rigging? Mine was all black (even the running) and it looked very similar to todays braided fishing line. I was able to salvage almost all of it.

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I believe that the builder used the kit-supplied line. Fellow forum member Bill (OCN30BCO) was kind enough to send me the plans for this kit along with a package of fittings etc for it. Among that package were a few spools of rigging in two colours - black and white, so I surmise that the builder of this model used his kit-supplied line in two colours - black and a shade of tan. It looks to me like he coloured the white. It had all become so dirty, that they both looked grayish.

 

David 

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That reminds me - keep a lookout as you break it down. Try to look inside places you might not break down. On my recent restore I found the manufacturer's stamp on the deck underneath the skylight structure. Megow's Models. Apparently, they stopped making models in the late 40's  . You never know what you might find.

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Hello,

Thanks for likes everyone.

Mike, the rigging line that came in the parts package looks like thread in a couple of different thicknesses. I don't think I'l going to use it though as it's likely about as old as the model is. I've ordered some Amati line from Cornwall Model Boats. Also Mike, I know the whole history of the model. It was built my my friend's father back when we were both kids. I used to visit their house frequently and was always very interested in his models. He died several years ago. I hadn't been in much contact with my friend for quite a few years, as he has been working in Europe and the Middle East. He retired and returned to Ontario this fall. When we got caught up I was surprised and pleased that he still had two of his dad's old models. One was the Rattlesnake, which is in pristine condition (and he's keeping) and the other was this one which is in poor condition. He has given this one to me to keep. With the help of others on this forum, I learned that it's a Marine Model Co. product. I'm very pleased to have it.

Don, the deck on this model is especially interesting. It appears that the planking has been painted or drawn on and it's a bit of a mystery to me because it's done so skillfully, while the rest of the painting on the model is pretty poorly done at best. I also don't understand why there is some red discolouration on the deck where each cannon sits; I'm not concerned as it won't show up when they're back in place. By the way, as it turns out I am actually using .5 mm stock for the replacement window frames. I just said a fractional number so not to confuse our American friends :D (just kidding.) While on this subject, I got a digital read-out caliper from Lee Valley for Christmas and I don't know how I got along without it. It converts from mm to decimal inches to fractional inches. 

 

I hope all those on the east coast are surviving this current storm. It's wintery enough here in southern Ontario, but nothing like you're getting from what I understand. Stay safe and warm.

David 

 

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Very cool story David. It's nice to know the history.

 

The restore I did has what sounds like a similar deck. One solid "slab" with the planks drawn on. Maybe an easier thing to do at the time. I imagine getting a consistent batch of 3/32x1/16 sticks might have been a challenge 60 years ago. For sure the Byrnes saw wasn't around yet :D

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Hello All,

I little progress to report. I've been working on a couple of things - the window frames on the skylights and the trim on the hatches as well as the masts and yards.

 

As I mentioned the window frames and hatch trim were made of card stock which I decided to replace with thin wood, but I'm trying to keep the appearance as close to the original as possible.

 

I made the window frames using a technique I learned in one of my Lauck St. practicums, which involves laminating the frames from two layers and using double sided tape. With the guide lines drawn on a piece of paper and then overlaid with the tape, lay the first layer on top of the tape. Then glue the second layer on top, but overlapping the joints. When the glue is dry, lift it from the tape, sand and paint. It works really very well. I used .5mm stock for each layer.

 

I didn't have any stock narrow enough, so I trimmed some down. I glued two pieces of scrap, the same thickness as the width I needed, to a piece of wood, with a gap between the two just wide enough to accept the .5mm stock. I then pared it down and sanded it flush with the two guide pieces.

 

Because I was fortunate to have received a package of replacement parts for this model, I also replaced the grating in the hatches. For this kit the grating is a thin sheet of wood about .5mm thick with the square holes punched through. Each hatch is a solid block of wood about 1/8" thick. The top is painted black and the piece of the hatch veneer glued on top. Maybe not as good as a built-up style hatch that is more commonly found in kits, but the scale looks pretty good and I'm not sure if you could make something quite this small using the more conventional means.

 

While I'm planning on repainting the bulwarks red, I think I'll leave the sides of the skylights alone as they have thin lines painted on them to simulate boards and I don't think I could redo them as well as these have been done.

 

I also did a little clean up on the masts and yards. Despite all the damage to the rigging, the only broken piece was the jibboom, which I couldn't glue together in a satisfactory way, so I recreated it from scratch. The main mast had come apart at the trestle trees, but was not broken and needed to be fully disassembled and re-glued. And a couple of the saddles had come free of the gaffs, and needed to be re-glued, but that was it, so they're now all ready to go.

 

David

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narrowing the stock

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making the window frames

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Good Morning,

A little progress to report and thank you for comments and "likes."

 

I've focused on repairing the broken bow and painting the bulwarks.DSCN1737.JPG.d6fb0a494c06fe9fd4fc63b69a21fe65.JPG

Here I've glued the two broken pieces back on. I'm glad that they weren't missing. It would have been possible to recreate them, but having them saved a lot of work.

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A little further along in the process - some replacement wood and filler.

 

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The new rail in place. I still have to add the triangular piece of grating, but it's going to wait until I'm quite a bit further along. It's very fragile stuff.DSCN1740.JPG.b7210527d127ff75015de3b4da01130a.JPG  

How much to repaint, and how much to leave alone has been a question I've been grappling with since the outset. My first inclination was to try to leave as much original as possible, but I'm beginning to realize that almost everything needs to be repainted. Here I've done the bulwarks. I've used Model Master Insignia Red, which I think is a great colour and it matches the original almost perfectly. There were actually two different reds used originally. The bulwarks is slightly different than the deck furniture. I suspect I'm worrying about it more than the original builder did, for all I know he probably just dug around in his basement and used whatever he could find. I'm really fond of Model Master paints, their flat finish in particular. Unlike some other brands, it isn't dead flat; it has a low sheen to it that I think makes it the ideal finish. On Tuesday, I made the big drive to Dailey Hobbies, (about 40 min. drive) and stocked up on the basics plus the red and some yellow for the hull. I found Model Master Insignia Yellow, also a flat finish and it is a perfect match for the yellow on the hull. I couldn't find a Model Master copper colour. I did find some Humbrol copper enamel, but when I got it home, I didn't care for the colour very much. A spray metallic copper might be something I can find in a hardware store, so I'll take a look today.

 

The cannons were not rigged on this model. I guess I could rig them, but the carriage are cast metal so it's not easy to do. Nevertheless, the original builder added small eyebolts at each gun port - you can see them in the first photo. I removed them all in order to paint and I'm inclined to leave them off.

 

 

Until next time.

David

 

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Hello All,

Continuing along, I've turned my attention to refinishing the hull. I added the fife rails and pin rails to the deck, but decided that before I return any more of the deck details, I needed to get the hull done. It desperately needed repainting, but I was finding it impossible to get a decent job going over the old paint, so I stripped it all off. It went against the grain to do that and I know serious antique restorers would run me out of town, but I decided it was necessary to get a decent job. The original is not painted exactly as the plan indicates, but I've decided to paint it the way it was done to try to get some integrity to the original. It's black above the wales, then a wide swath of yellow and then copper paint below the waterline.

 

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Here I'm working on the yellow - a couple more coats needed as well as some minor touch up at the bow. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this Model Master Insignia Yellow is almost exactly the same as the original. The hull has been beautifully carved and is very smooth.

 

I've also been working on the cannons and carriages. The cannons are brass, so I just shone them up a bit (but not too much). Even though I prefer them blackened, I'm going to leave them as is because that's the way they were done. The carriages are cast metal and the old paint was coming off in places. I stripped them all down and repainted them the same colours as the originals. I don't know if they're historically correct or not, but I'm trying as much as possible not to second guess the original modeler's vision.

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So I guess that's enough excitement for one Saturday night. If you'd told me 40 years ago that one day I'd be quite content spending a Saturday night painting a model ship's hull yellow followed by Midsomer Murders on Netflix, I'll say you were crazy, yet here I am nevertheless!

 

David

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Mike, I can't say for sure what kind of wood the hull is made from. I believe that current solid hull models are usually basswood, so I think it's probably safe to assume that this one is too.  The wood has to be soft enough to carve easily, reduce the thickness of the bulwarks and cut in gunports. The colour of the hull in the picture in my previous post is no indication, because what you can see is where I have removed the copper paint and the surface is somewhat stained.

David

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Good Morning Everyone,

A quick update - I almost have the hull finished and will soon be ready to add the masts.

 

I've painted the hull and I'm pretty happy with the colours. I didn't think I was happy with the Humbrol copper at first, but I've decided it's just fine. As per usual, I still have a bit of paint touch up yet to do.

 

I've returned all of the details to deck, except for belaying pins. I had to make new fife rails and pin rails, as the old ones virtually crumbled. A couple of the channels had broken off, so I removed all four which make sanding and repainting a lot easier. I have them returned to the hull now as well, but I won't re-attach the chainplates until I have discovered their correct location once the shrouds are in place. 

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Here's where I've repaired the major damage on the hull.

 

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Deck details are now completed.

 

All of my colour choices are the same as the original, whether they're correct or not.

 

The rigging will be a bit of a challenge. I do have the original plans, but as is often the case they aren't always very clear. I made extensive notes before removing the old rigging, but I don't believe it was necessarily always correct. So I will be relying on four things - the original plans, my notes from the old rigging, Petersson's book on fore-and-aft rigging and even Bob Hunt's practicum for the Pride of Baltimore II. I think that's enough to let me come up with a passable result, hope so anyway.

 

David

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Good Morning Everyone,

Thank you for likes and comments.

 

Before starting the standing rigging, the last thing I did was address the trailboards. The port side one was missing altogether and the starboard side was badly damaged. It was painted on cardstock and was delaminating. I was hoping to save it, but it's pretty bad, so I painted two new ones. This kind of painting is not my forte, but I think they're similar to the original, so that will be ok. There is also a similar decoration for the stern, which isn't in bad shape, so I have returned it to its position.

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The upper left is the damaged original, the upper right is for the stern and the two lower ones on my new ones. There is some kind of grommet on the original, which I have imitated with a blackened brass ring and a hole drilled through into the hull.

 

I then started the rigging. I have the standing rigging on the bowsprit done and am starting in on the foremast standing rigging.

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You can see my copy of the original plans in the background. The original is a blueprint. When Bill sent it to me, I had a copy made at Staples. I wasn't sure how well it would turn out, but it came very well. These plans are very difficult to decipher, but all the information is there. It just takes a bit of patience and determination to extract it.

 

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I'm using black line for the lanyards on the deadeyes for a couple of reasons. The first is, the original had black line and I'm trying to stay as true to it as I can, and the second is because the deadeyes themselves are black and are of very poor quality. I know that many deadeyes are poorly drilled, but these ones are especially bad with very inconsistent placement of the holes. It's almost impossible to get a decent looking job. The black line will minimize the imperfections, whereas a light contrasting colour would emphasize them.

 

That's all for this morning.

 

David

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Hello Everyone,

A little more rigging progress to report. I've finished the standing rigging and have just started on the ratlines.

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In an attempt to better control the tendency of the shrouds to pull inward, I'm trying the technique of tying every fourth ratline first. I've also drawn vertical lines on the paper guide where the two outer shrouds lie. It seems to be working quite well. By coincidence, the lined notepaper that I'm using is spaced exactly the same as the plans. The lines are on 6mm intervals, as are the plans.

 

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I do have a rigging question that I hope someone can help me with. I'll also post this question under the rigging forum. The plans show a yard at the top of the main mast and I have never run across one just like this before. I assume it's unique to this kind of vessel -American topsail schooner. It's nearly vertical and it's very difficult to decipher from the plan how to attach it and how to rig it. I do know that where the plan indicates "A" that it's referring to a block, but apart from that it's pretty unclear what to do. There are four blocks "A" indicated. I know that the one in the lower right is unrelated (and it's actually a pair - marked "p/s") but the other three appear to be part of the rigging for this yard. Is anybody able to explain or even better illustrate what the setup is? I'd be most appreciative. I think I've figured out most of the other bits, but this one has me stumped. Many thanks.

 

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Thanks again,

David

 

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Well if it were horizontal would there be room for a square sail? I can't really see but is it fastened to the mast in the middle of the yard or closer to an end? My first thought is just a yard being stowed. They did that a lot. Often they would lower the yard to the deck but just as often leave it stowed like that in case it's needed quickly.  There's a term for that but I don't recall what it is.

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I'm beginning to believe that the rigging for this yard is actually simpler than I've been imagining. It's been suggested in my other post under rigging questions that such a yard would be raised and lowered with the sail already in place on it, which makes sense to me. I think I'll seize a block to the mast near the top and seize a line around the centre of the yard. I'll pass the line through the block and belay it to a point on the deck yet to be determined. If I'm reading the plan correctly, it appears that there is a second block seized lower on the mast and a second line seized near the end of the yard, passed through the block and then belayed at the deck as well.

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Although the plan doesn't show such a line, I may run one from the top of this yard to the end of the main gaff, which will put some tension on it, which may be necessary to for it to hold its position. The similar model in this photo shows such a line.

 

 

Thanks again,

David

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Good Morning,

Working on ratlines this morning, I think I've just discovered, by accident, a useful little technique. I don't know if I'm alone in this or not, but when I apply a dab of glue to the knots, I always have trouble getting a good result. No matter how dilute I make the glue or how carefully I try to apply it, I always seem to get glue on the line itself, or dabs that are too big. Sometimes it dries white and sometimes it dries a bit shiny. In the past, I've touched it up with flat black paint and the result is often a bit messy.

 

I've finished the ratlines on the starboard side, and this morning I decided that I was unhappy with about three or four of them on each mast and decided to redo them. I applied rubbing alcohol with a small brush to the knots to loosen them. Of course, it's nearly impossible to do this without some dripping down and that's when I discovered that a very light brushing with the rubbing alcohol is just enough to take away any glued look, but nowhere near enough to loosen the knots. I when over both sets of ratlines and I've ended up with cleaner result than I've ever had before. (Of course, if after my cup of coffee I go back downstairs and discover all the ratlines laying on the bench, I'll be of a different opinion.:)) I don't believe that will be the case however, and I was happy to have stumbled onto this little remedy for my problem.

David

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Good Morning Everyone,

I'm making steady progress on the rigging. Ratlines are finished as well as the three yards on the foremast except for the braces, which I'll add at the end. Next is the fore gaff, then on to the main mast. Oh, and I have to replace a starboard backstay, which came apart due to the problem which I describe below. 

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One frustration with this model is the blocks. They are very small. The plan indicates three sizes of block - 5/32", 1/8" and 3/32". I sorted the blocks I removed from the model into those three sizes. I don't know who measured them initially, but if I compare them to my other blocks, they are all much smaller.DSCN1761.JPG.4d4c94176063c777b34de51f25c79073.JPG

In the picture above, the top block is a 1/8" from my Constitution model, the middle one is this model's idea of a 1/8" and the bottom is the 3/32". They were even had to sort as the differences in their sizes are only marginal. In addition they are very rounded and I have found it difficult to seize them and have them stay in place. It's not so bad when it's still on the bench, but when it happens much later after being installed on the model it's beyond frustrating. In the end I've taken to deepening the grooves on the side with a small file and applying a dollop of glue to the sides of the block as well as the seizing. This seems to have solved the problem but even so, due to fat fingers, each one is taking me about twice as long as has been my experience on other models. However, because of their small size, they do look pretty good once in place. 

 

Not too much left to finish this model off and I do need a break from rigging. Because most of the work on this restoration has been rigging and little hull work, it feels like I've been doing rigging forever having just finished rigging on my last model. I'm really looking forward to getting started on my next one and have some wood work to do and an extended respite from rigging. 

 

David

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Hi Mike,

I'm not sure what wood the spars are made from, but I assume it's the kit-supplied wood, so who knows? As for the colour, I like it too. I repainted the painted parts, but I left the natural parts as I found them, apart from giving them a light wiping with some mineral spirits to clean them. The spars as well as the blocks all have a slight orangey cast, which makes me suspect he used shellac on them. Also, I think shellac was more of a staple than other stains and finishes in most home workshops 50-60 years ago, and more so than it is today. So my guess is shellac, but it's only a guess.

 

David

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