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Swift by PopJack - FINISHED - Artesania Latina - Virginia Pilot Boat 1805 Older version

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Like a couple of others I have a 1980's LA Swift Pilot Boat.  I have completed only one boat- LA's Mare Nostrum.  I am going to build a big ship, but decided that I needed more practice before destroying building such a expensive nice kit.  So, while I don't plan on doing a BAD job, this one is really for planking practice.


I've had this kit since the 1990's.  I figure its time to do something with it.


First of all, laser cutting is really nice.  This kit was done with some kind of power router and a die cut- that more bruises than cuts.  The pieces have to be cut out.  I never appreciated lasers until I started this one.  This is where the "old hands" can laugh at a newbie.... I just didn't know how good things are today.




To cut them the pieces out, I tired a couple of different things.  I ended up with my chip carving knife.  It is razor sharp, but very sturdy and has a nice handle.



For the largest pieces I snipped them with sharp side cutters and then file and sanded the edges.




The false keel and bulkheads fit together amaizingly well.  It only took a bit of sculpting to get them right.  Others have written about the filler blocks.  I followed the kits instructions and decided to glue them in place before shaping the stem and stern blocks.




While things were drying, i started a deck house.  Since the pieces were small and not terribly sturdy, I took some scrap wood and made little corner braces.  I glued these in place and then the cross pieces to them using CA glue.  After everything was glued, I strapped it to a square block to get the shape right and the used wood glue from a hypodermic along all the inside seams for strength.




Since the roof is curved I think this thing is going to need to be pretty strong to sustain the bend.




So, that's where it stands after one afternoon.  And yes, she will be named after my favorite band, as soon as I can figure a cool nautical deviation of one of their songs.

Edited by PopJack
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PopJack, excellent start to your new build.

The only thing that comes to mind though is that the extra blocks you used to support the walls of the Deck House.

If you look ahead, you will see that you frame the deck holes and the frame is a bit raised so that the deck house rest in the frames. With those blocks there you may have to trim them up so that the Deck house rest over the frames and touches the deck.

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Good idea on the corner bracing for the deckhouses. I had a bear of a time getting them square. The newer version of the kit is notched. Nice improv.


I also found a partial block between bulkheads 1 and 2 very beneficial along the keel line. It really helped gluing down that garboard strake.


Looking Good, so are you going with a Dire Straits theme?

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Good catch Kevin- and excellent solution Keith.  I'll make allowances in the frame for the supports to sit.


Thanks for the tip on the extra brace.


Yes, I'm certainly going with Dire Straights.  Only issue is, I've got to figure out exactly how I want to put that on the boat.  I like your idea of a transon detail.  I also like the idea of an inlay on the deck or even one of the houses.  If she had flags, it would be easiest to print something on them.... who knows?


EDIT: The older version does not have anything to interfere with the corner post.  The newer one might- as my other AL model did.

Edited by PopJack
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Hey PopJack,


Glad to see your Swift build on the ways. Be patient and take you time.  Wish you well as you move along.





Hopeful aka David


“there is wisdom in many voices”


Completed: Sharpie Schooner (Midwest) Posted  to the Gallery


Current: Sultana (MSW)

Current: Phantom (MSW)


Next: Lady Nelson (Amati Victory)

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This afternoon I spent a few more minutes with the Swift.


I have been following the directions as best I can, and doing things in the order suggested.  The next step for hull construction was the gluing on of the false main and poop decks.  The instructions suggested using wood glue and then nailing the deck down.  The cross curvature of the deck is quite severe- this was one well drained boat!


On my first build, I used CA glue and accelerator to help with this compound curve.  This time I tried the nails as suggested in the kit's instructions.  I discovered very quickly that the nails pulled out and with glue everywhere I started heading toward a mess.  So I put a couple of nails in along the keel line and then used clamps to achieve the needed curvature.  I went back to nails, but in the end gave up and used the CA glue.


After everything was in place I outlined the seams with wood glue which should (according to my reading) work its way into the joint and seal things up forever.


When I am making furniture, after all the dry fit and such, the glue goes on and the clamps come out.  IT NEVER works the way it should -  my kids and I call it the "cuss and fuss" stage.  This is when bad things happen.  True to form, when I tightened one of the clamps, the false deck BROKE!  Using clamps and the magic supplied by a few choice words, I glued it back with a brace from the bottom.


Everything looks good except that I think the nail heads are going to take a lot of work to get flush.  What can I say?  It seemed like a good idea at the time.




I also worked a bit on the second deck structure.  Again, I used my little scraps to help me get it together.  This time I raised them a bit so that the framework of the hull should fit without being trimmed.




You can see how with them in place, its very easy for even me to get the general form of the frame done quickly.



I started planking the roof of one of the houses as well.


All in all, the kit seems pretty sweet for the technology of its day.  It is not percise and there isn't a sharp corner in it, but I'm enjoying the build so far.



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I had the same trouble. I had holes in the deck where I tried nailing and removed them. I cleaned the PVA up and completely used CA for the deck. With the complex curvature of that deck I dont know how to do it with PVA. the biggest problem is clamping, there is nothing straight to clamp to and her deck curves to the middle and out making the corners a bit of problem to pin down. Luckily mine didn't break but I had tried soaking it the day before and forming which my have given me that little extra flex. Not that it matters as it will be covered. For me I think the deck was the hardest part to secure so far.


Oh, BTW how are those magnet clamps working? I've considered getting some.

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I considered soaking the deck, or even wetting an microwaving it.  Probably would have been a good idea.


The "clamps" are rare earth magnets I got from Amazon.  (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005HYCSLS/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)  On one hand, they work really well.  Any planking operation where you can get to both sides is really nice and flat.  On the other hand they are TOO STRONG to deal with easily.  They will grab a set of tweezers from a distance, and more than once, one sitting on my wood work surface has jumped up to join one on some fixture I was working on.  This has actually broken a couple of things.  They also react with wood glue and occasionally form a black stain that has to be sanded off.


Again, on the positive side, I put one on top of my kitchen table with the stack hidden under the table in my hand and perform magic tricks for my grandson (4 years).  I can make them jump and slide and all kids of things through the table top. The table top is 3/4" laminate covered pressboard to give you an idea of how strong these stupid things are.




Someday I will try and find ones that are still strong, but not that strong.


QUESTION: Do you (or anyone) know of a source where I can study how this boat might have actually been finished.  I'd kind of like to try my hand a painting her- but I have no idea what she might have actually looked like.  There has got to be a resource for small boats, but I haven't a clue where to start.


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I seriously haven't tried searching the virgina pilot boats and their construction. I planned on starting the project just as a per instructions build. I was worried more about it being a physical practicum rather then a historic vessel.  something to teach me technique. along the way I figured I'd learn even more if I changed a few things.


Have you seen the inlayed floor of the Royal Yacht Caroline by Janos


My inspiration for my transom, if I could be 1% as good It'll satisfy me. Love to see how that floor was done in a step by step fashion.


You had talked about the Guitar pattern for your deck or deckhouse roof, but you would need silver wood, and look what I found.


I ordered the multi sample pack so I'll let you know how the silver looks.



I had some one those neodymium magnets when I taught and they were almost impossible to get apart. I remember the day a student thought it'd be cute as an ear ring after seeing them hold through my hand. Talk about a screaming kid. maybe I'll save my money on that purchase.

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My son tells the story of a classmate who put one of the magnets in his nose.  The idea was that he was going to use another one to pull it out in a kind of "surprise!" moment.  As such things go, he ended up in the emergency room haivng it removed form his sinuses after using the wrong polarity on the removal magnet. 


Thanks for your input on the wood and other items.

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Not a lot of free time today.  I noticed one of the bulkheads wasn't long enough to match the others (it was mounted square, just short on one side).  So I cut a piece of scrap and rough shaped it.  I "fair" it later and it should be fine.


I also worked on shaping the stem blocks.  It's pretty close now.


I am worried about two items:


1) I had intended to put a rabbit on the false keel- largely for practice.  There isn't room unless I do some work.  The kit calls- basically- for the first planking to be solid around the hull and then for you to sand a flat spot in the first planking onto which to glue the keep piece.  I'm just not sure what I want to do here.  To make the rabbit, I will have to reshape several bulkheads AND because I didn't think of it earlier, it will be tough.  Alternately, I can put a rabbit in the keel piece and glue it to false keel.  The cut would have to pretty accurate....


2) I'm not sure how to handle the skeg during planking.  I though the object was for the garboard strake to follow the keel and then twist and become part of the skeg.  It really doesn't look like anyone does this, though. They seem to follow the curve of the stern up and then plank the skeg with an assemblage of triangle pieces.  Advice appreciated.


Can't get the photo to upload, so just imagine beautiful wood with glue.

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First off the Swift isnt designed to have a rabbet. the keel should be beveled to a point forward of bulkhead 5 and the garboard strake lies on this angle, this is then flattened to fit the false keel. On my build I had the plank flat against the skeg then twist to lie on the keel line. From bulkhead 5 to 7 the keel should be slightly beveled. Making this keel fit is going to be the biggest chore of this build and I'm planning on changing stem posts for one that wil hold a figurehead.


Here's a pic of the garboard shaped



Here's a couple with the garboard attached.



Hopefully you can see how the garboard wraps (or lays on) the keel up front and lays on either side on the skeg. This does require thinning of the skeg width to match the false keel when it is fitted, Which I plan to do before 2nd planking. I plan to leave the keel line a bit shallow to the false keel so that the rabbet forms between the 2, of course that is only 0.5mm on a second planking.


Hope this helped and didnt confuse to much.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well I worked on her again today.  I've done a lot of research on how to handle planking of what I will call the "skeg."   I understand that this may or may not be the correct term.    In any event, Thermadchemist in his excellent build planked it (and did a great job, using tapering and avoiding stealers).   In a tutorial on planking the same ship is shown with the Skeg shown not planked.  The excellent responses to my posted question indicated that several people plank the skeg on the second planking, but not on the first.


The planking technique seems to depend on matters related to how the individual boat was built- and since I don't know, and am not interested in spending a lot of time looking, I'm following my own counsel.


I decided:

1) I was only going to plank the skeg with the second planking.

2) I was going to try and understand the instructions regarding how to handle the keel where the skeg begins.

3) I was going to concentration on learning to bend wood and not worry about steelers- that is use as many as necessary instead of tapering.


So,  first of all, I absconded with a hair curling iron and discovered it works better than anything I've tried in bending wood.  I soaked it for a bit (the wood, not the curler) and then bent it- I actually had to straighten a few pieces.  Second, I discovered that the wood for planking is not of a uniform thickness- and in some cases not even close.  (Remember, this it the 1980's kit.).  Third, I concluded I don't have a clue what I was supposed to do with regard to the garboard strake and the skeg, so I'm going to have A LOT OF SHAPING to do to make things look decent.


So, in all her UGLY glory, a couple of photos:



 I also worked on the deck houses some more.  Long way to go.




IN closing, I have learned that my brother is getting married.  If this boat turns out OK, I am going to give it to them as a wedding gift.  They are both vetrans of other marriages, and I am going to write an allegory of enjoying a  life long relationship with a wooden boat- the work that goes into keep it a float.  I figure if they like it then they will overlook my boat's flaws.  If they are offended- well, I'll save money on Christmas cards.


So, I'm going to just try and make it look nice- no special customization.










Edited by PopJack
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I've been thinking about painting this model.  Again, not trying to be absolutely authentic, just want a nice looking model that isn't too stupid looking to someone who knows ships. 


The information I've run across indicates that the hull should probably be black, the deck houses white, and below the water line, either red (rust color), cream, or copper.  Mast and spars would be clear varnish, deck, clear varnish.   Parts of the mast might be white- depending on what I look at.   All metal would be flat black or painted to batch the attachment point.


I didn't think this kind of boat was copper plated this early- but am continuing to research. 


Any advice on paint would be appreciated.  Any reference to a photograph of a painted model would be appreciate.

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Well, I took today off from the boat to work on a small cabinet for my designated modeling tools.  I bought melamine board and put it with some scrap wood.  I had a lazy susan base and made a tool stand for the top of that.  It's not quite done, but about 95%.  I think it will be nice to have "upstairs" where I work on the models.


I made the top of the stand up plate removable and the big cavity large, so I can get my fat hands into the hole to retrieve tools.






Edited by PopJack
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Not much to tell about the tool case.  It is "quick and dirty" defined.


The panels were cut and then biscuits were used on the major panel edges, reinforced by #8 2 inch screws.  I counter sunk the screws, but didn't bother to fill behind the screws in any manner.   


I used the iron on edging for the boards- it works well once you figure it out.  It's easy to scorch though, and I didn't have any extra left over to replace bad applications.  I use a strip of glue on everything, but doubt its effectiveness- probably just habit.


The drawers are a single piece of board with a edge made of scrap oak I had laying around.  I made them shallow, since primarily the drawers are for laying out tools, not stacking stuff.  I used commercial drawer slides that will extend out the full depth of the drawer.




I had a heavy duty lazy susan base (one that will hold three or four hundred pounds) and made a tool holder to go on it.  Its not as smooth as a lighter duty one would be- but should I ever get any REALLY HEAVY TOOLS, I'm in shape.




Originally I wasn't going to put a door on it, but I decided that it might be nice to lock up the super glue and sharp tools for grandchild safety.  Since I don't want a door in the way, I made a lift off door that is held in place by a pin.  The attachment points are from some scrap aluminum angle I had laying around.





I got drawer liners that is really tacky and lined the top and other parts.  After I use it for a while I'm sure I'll figure out what I did wrong and make modifications.



Edited by PopJack
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It may be "quick and dirty" but it sure looks more thought out and better made than most stuff you find in the stores!  Excellent job and thanks for sharing the details.  It gives me some good ideas for the future when I get a chance to better organize my workspace.

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Loaded tools and such on the new toy holder.  Here's what I learned- the shallow drawers are the BOMB!.  I will be adding probably two more and compacting the space.  I had thought that I might need some head room- but it rarely happens.


Here is a photo of it loaded:




I also spent a couple of minutes on the boat.  Thanks the help, I am developing a color scheme, and really don't want to do much more assembling until I finalize it and get the paint.



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I think the shallow drawers idea is my favorite part. You never want tools piled up on top of each other. I use an old wooden desk and so much room is lost in headspace that isn't used. That is unless you buy too many tools. That's a nice little work side stand and I love the tools cradles.


Thrown together, funny I took a buch of wood today and threw it together and I just ended up with a pile of wood on the ground, i must be doing something wrong?  :D


There's a lot of thought went into that little thrown together cabinet. Thanks for the added info. I really like the full pullouts on the drawers also.

And the lazy susan? 300 pound, are you planning on building engines, now thats some heavy duty construction.

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Thrown together, funny I took a bunch of wood today and threw it together and I just ended up with a pile of wood on the ground, i must be doing something wrong?  :D

It's all in the wrist.


Did a little sanding on the hull tonight.  Still researching color schemes. 

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Update: Cabinet- Still loving it.  Definitely plan on compacting the top three drawers to have about 1" to 1 1/2" clearance bottom of one drawer to the top of the next.  I'll use 3/4" edging for ... well, the edge, if you would.  I will then add two more drawers that have enough clearance for small bottles of paint and such.  The decision to have a removable door is excellent since I don't have to worry about clearance for the hinges.


The boat: Put a diluted coat of white paint on the cabin walls, letting is soak in as a primer.  I want the wood to show through to some extent, but I may have sanded too much.  We'll see.


Started on the deck planking.  I had quite a shock in discovering that the deck planks as supplied weren't the same width.  Since I cut up a bunch of strips, this means that after the glue was on and drying I discovered that some of the decking had offsets.  I did a little panic removal and replacement to try and put the fat and thin planks in the same strakes (for lack of a better word).


During the panic, I got off on my joints somewhat.


OH WELL, this boat was for me to learn on and practice.  I'm giving it to a non-modeler so.... :)



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Nice recovery on the plank size mishap.  Good thing you were able to catch it before it was too late.  I am assuming they got more consistent over the years as the wood in the newer kit was very uniform at 5mm widths.  Between your build and Keith's I am more and more convinced that I had an easier model to build than you guys do yet you are doing a great job!

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I really love that Ramin wood strips. It has great colour and texture. Its too bad its cut so poorly. I had a bunch that was ragged on one edge. The basswood planking for the hull was uneven thicknesses also, I had to pick through it and pick out the thin planks before planking.


I think it looks fine, once its dry and sanded it'll look great. and when everything is on the deck any unevenness won't show anyway.

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