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Bonhomme Richard by Jerry Greening - 1:48 scale

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Hello everyone. I am reloading the build log for my Bonhomme Richard that was lost due to the data loss. Luckily, I keep photos on my home computer along with albums on Facebook.


The Bonhomme Richard (Ex-Duc de Duras) 1:48th scale by Jerry Greening
Personal Background

     I have been building plastic scale models for the last 35 years. Some of those models include the Lindberg line of ships along with two Revel U.S.S Constitution. For quite some time I have wanted to build a plank on frame ship for many years but never really had the time. In my late teens up till my mid 20's I served in both the US Army (143rd EVAC Hospital) and the US Navy (USS Jarrett FFG-33). About 4 years ago I came across a plastic kit for a Perry Class Frigate - same class as I served on. I built that model and converted it to match the Jarrett as she appeared during Operation Desert Shield in 1991. Once I finished the Jarrett the bug to build the plank on frame bit hard. The question of what to build remained. I began looking through the model shipways, Mantua, and Dumas catalogs - I didn't find anything that really bit me as a project. I was looking for a special 17th century American warship other than the Constitution. In searching across the internet I came across some pictures of Karl Wienmann's build of the Bonhomme Richard. I was impressed by his workmanship, moreover the Bonhomme Richard struck me as the perfect project after all what ship could possibly fit along side my Jarrett than the flagship of the man who is regarded as the father of the United States Navy. My perusing of Karl's pictures led me to Model Ship World which I originally joined in 2011. Knowing I needed to hone some ship modeling skills i did purchase the Model Shipways Armed Virginia Sloop, which I did my first build postings on this website (I plan on reloading that build log soon). In the mean time I set about the task of locating some drawings for the Bonhomme Richard. Through my research I discovered that Jean Boudriot drawings of the ship are generally considered to be the most accurate. These where being sold at onetime by Ancre, which is a French nautical publication company. I sent off a couple emails to them inquiring about purchasing the drawings - I never heard back from them, which is a complaint echoed by several other people. Trying a different path I conducted a search through some online used bookstore databases. I found many copies available, however the least expensive of these was through Amazon.De (Amazon in Germany) that copy ended up being US $350, I didn't purchase them at first, only after spending many more weeks searching for something less expensive, which I didn't - so I ordered them, but only after my other half well basically ordered me to order them. I guess she got tired of me searching. She also didn't really have an idea how big the Richard is at 1:48 scale. Something she figured out about the time I laid the keel out - I now owe her a bigger house. Note that if you are to look for these drawings today they are about $150 less than what I paid due to the Euro being weaker against the Dollar than it was two years ago, they are available through several online booksellers. Keep in mind though they are out of print, somewhat collectible.
The Bonhomme Richard - History
     The Bonhomme Richard began her life as a French East Indiaman named the Duc de Duras. The Duras was launched in Lorient, France on 28 November 1765. Over the course of her career with the French East India Company the Duc de Duras made four voyages to the orient and was for a time utilized as a French troop transport before ownership was transfered to King Louis XVI in January of 1779. By this point in thecareerof the Duc de Duras she was extremely worn and considered too old a vessel for the voyage from France to the orient. The actual purchase of the ship by the French Crown was part of deal negotiated by Benjamin Franklin to secure larger ships for the fledgling "American Navy". Franklin was a regular in King Louis's court, his presence in France served the purpose of keeping the cause of the American Revolution fresh in the minds of the French King and his court in order to continue receiving supplies needed by the American Colonists in their war with the British. The presence of John Paul Jones in France was for a slightly different purpose. John Paul was in command of the American sloop Ranger where he was conducting the war along the coastline of the British Isles.
     The work to convert the Duc de Duras to a ship more suitable for warfare began in March of 1779 and was completed in May of that same year. It was during this yard period that John Paul Jones renamed the ship the Bonhomme Richard, which was the title of a very popular book in France at the time, penned by none other than Benjamin Franklin. The Duc de Duras being a vessel of trade was thus not very heavily armed, much of this conversion involved openning some gun ports while closing others and relocating still others as Jones saw fit in order to turn her into a ship of war. According to Jean Boudriot, the Duras had been designed to accommodate 13 guns of 12lb rating on each side of the gun deck. In reality the ship only carried three on each side with the remaining 10 ports having been planked over. Due to the difficulties Jones encountered in securing 18lb cannons which Jones wished to arm the Richard with, he only opened an additional 4 ports per side of the gundeck. In the end Jones was only able to secure six 18lb cannons instead of the desired 10, requiring a new gunport to be cut in the aft section of the hull for the purposes of trimming out the stern of the ship. The use of the larger 18lb cannon also necessitated the enlargement of all the gunports. Other modifications included enlarging the gunports on the upper deck to accommodate 12lb cannon in lieu of the 8lb cannon the ship was originally designed to accommodate. Additional ports where cut into the wardroom at the stern, a pair of bowchaser ports at the bow and an additional 5 ports per side on the quarterdeck, these where armed with 8lb cannon. Additional structural modifications included the addition of iron knees to the upper decks to accommodate the weight of the additional cannons. Jean Boudriot also theorized that Jones would have modified the masts and rigging to accommodate royal topsails that where the norm for the period thus he incorporated these into his drawings.
     With Modification work to the Bonhomme Richard being completed in May of 1779, Jones set to sea in June of that year tasked with escorting a convoy. During the escort the Richard collided with another ship in the convoy severally damaging the bow area of the ship and requiring a return to the yards for repair. During this yard period Jones had the riding bits moved from the main deck down to the gundeck with new hawseholes cut appropriately. The capstan was also replace having suffered significant damage in the collision. By August 14th, repairs complete John Paul Jones, now in command of a seven ship squadron, set sail from France bound for the coastal waters of Scotland and Ireland in a repeat of an earlier cruise Jones made in command of the Ranger. Three of the vessels would desert Jones squadron before reaching the coastline. By all accounts the squadron,now consisting of just four ships, sank, burned, and took a number of merchant vessels as prizes, , alsoknowledgeof Jones presence off the coast caused a bit of concern among the coastal towns and villages and within the British government, who viewed Jones as a pirate. The British Navy had orders to intercept Jones and put an end to his terrorizing of the coastline. On the afternoon of September 23rd 1779 off the coast of Flambourgh Head Jones squadron engaged in the pursuit of a number of merchant vessels. The vessels upon sighting Jones squadron turned back,their retreat covered by two British warships the Countess of Scarborough and the 44 gun HMS Serapis setting the stage for one of the most legendary navel battles in American history.
Flambourgh Head
     At 6:30 on September 23rd the Serapis and the Bonhomme Richard engaged each other, the sun was just setting and the winds where light. Going into the battle the HMS Serapis had the upper hand in that she was both more maneuverable and more heavily armed than the Bonhomme Richard. In the first hour of the battle heavy fighting ensued that saw all six of the 18lb cannon aboard the Bonhomme Richard were put out of action due to one of them exploding causing heavily damage to the gundeck forcing the Richards gun crews to the upper decks. Jones slowed the Bonhomme Richard, turned to the starboard into the Serapis and attempted to board her on the starboard quarter. In an attempt to avoid the boarding maneuver, Captain Pearson aboard the HMS Serapis turns her to the starboard crossing in front of the Bonhomme Richards bow, unable to avoid collision the Bonhomme Richard struck the starboard quarter of the Serapis. The HMS Serapis eventually pulls free from the entanglement resulting from the collision. Captain Pearson brought the Serapis alongside the Richard at gun range in an attempt to utilize the still functioning main batteries aboard the her. Jones immediately counters this by turning starboard across the path of the Serapis. Due to reduced maneuverability the HMS Serapis is unable to avoid collision and slams into the Bonhomme Richards starboard side, the bowsprit of the Serapis becoming hopelessly entangled in the Bonhomme Richards mizzen shrouds. Jones Paul Jones continues turning the Bonhomme Richard to the starboard bringing her alongside the Serapis, the two ships are now lashed together by a large number of grappling hooks, night has fallen and the battle continues at point blank range for the cannons along with hand to hand combat on the upper decks of both ships. The frigate Alliance, under command of Captain Pierre Landais and part of Jones own squadron begins circling the Serapis and the Richard indiscriminately firing grapeshot into the rigging and across the decks of the two ships. The Serapis's 18lb cannon continued to tear through the waterline and the gundeck of the Bonhomme Richard severely weakening her already old framing timbers. Just three hours into the battle the Bonhomme Richard  was on fire with half her crew already dead or injured. Only three of the port side 8lb cannon located on the Bonhomme Richards quarterdeck remained serviceable. The Bonhomme Richard was sinking, two petty officers both wounded and under the belief that John Paul Jones was dead hailed the HMS Serapis calling for "quarters" by some accounts they also attempted to strike the Richards colors. Jones, who had been commanding one of the last serviceable 8lb cannons on the quarter deck heard them. Jones rushed the two petty officers, striking one unconscious with his pistol. There was a reply from the Serapis asking if Jones wanted to surrender. Jones replied back "I may sink, But I'll be damned if I surrender!" In later years this became the more widely known phrase "I have not begun to fight!" With the Bonhomme Richard in dire straits two events occured that would instantly turn the battle in Jones favor. The master-at -arms aboard the Richard released English prisoners being held below deck and put them on the ships pumps, they managed to stem just enough of the incoming water to keep the ship afloat just long enough for the next event to finally turn the tide of battle. Jones had heavily barricaded the top rigging of the Bonhomme Richard back in France. A number of sailors where utilizing the top rigging as a point to lay musket fire and drop grenades onto the Serapis deck below. One sailor ventured out to end of a yardarm and managed to drop a grenade through an open hatch on the Serapis's maindeck, the grenade reached the gundeck where it exploded setting off nearby power kegs wrecking the gundeck of the HMS Serapis. By 10:30 pm after just 4 hours of fighting with both ships burning fiercely and half their crews dead or injured Captain Richard Pearson of the HMS Serapis struck the ships colors and surrendered to John Paul Jones. It took the combine efforts of both crew to finally extinguish the fires aboard both vessel by sunrise on the 24th. Though the Bonhomme Richard was still afloat, due to the efforts of the men at her pumps, Jones realized she was lost, he transfered his command along with his wounded to the Serapis. On the morning of Saturday the 25th of September 1779 the Bonhomme Richard slipped beneath the waters off Flambourgh Head.




Edited by JerryGreening
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Starting at the stern. Here is the rudderpost and the deadwood above the keel. I had orginally planned to build this ship using oak for the frames. I had a lot of scrap oak at the time and it seemed like a good idea. I very quickly switched my choice of wood over to maple. For those of you new to this hobby Oak is awsome for full sized ships it is however a very lousy modeling wood, it is very grainy and very brittle. Don't use it - save it for the display board. :D  You can see an oak version of the rudder post on the right side of the first two pictures








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Now for the part that had me sold on building this ship...the stern framing. Karl's (Jeronimo) stern framing was so smooth that it looked like a sculpture.

I guess it is worth mentioning that I scan the area of the drawings that I am working on. Then print them out on my computer. If you do this though be advise to check the print out against your drawing because many scanners do distort the image. I then cut out the area I am working on and afix it to the wood using scotch 77 spray adhesive.









Edited by JerryGreening
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LOL...Thank you Harvey. I was just looking at your log.The jig is pretty simple to construct, basically it is a white MDF board with cleats attached either side of the keel. There is a triangular piece at the stern which is cut to match the angle of the stern post.


Now lett the framing begin!!!!










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Before continuing on it is worth mentioning that I was following Ed T's Naiad build on the old site. I copied some of the tools that he made in that log. 


The first is a marking guage that can be used to transfer dimensions of the drawings right to the model. The second piece is simply a right angle brace that I temp attached to the jig board at the bow to support that area during construction. The final piece is a right angle wall with a notch cut in the bottom to clear the keel and the cleats. This "Wall" helps ensure that the frames are installed vertically.






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Next comes the cant frames forming the bow. I did a short video for Jeronimo that illustrates how cant frames for the Richard are laid out, cut, and placed on the model. The link is here 


A lot of ships from this period had cant frames and bows constructed in a similar manner so the video might be useful to reference.











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I am using the Ancre plans, which I should add that if anyone in the US is interested in this build now is a pretty good time to purchase the plans - 128 Euros - about $168. I know I paid well over $250 for the monograph two years ago.





Did you order from the Ancre website? I've tried to contact them before through the email address listed, but each time I get a bounce back on the email as undeliverable.

Edited by gjdale
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