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US Brig Syren by Jason - Model Shipways - 1:64

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Hello All,


This kit has been languishing in my study for almost a year, waiting patiently in the box for me to start it.  As I have noted in my 18 Century Longboat build log, this kit was a consolation buy for me during a move.  I have long wanted a Model Shipways kit, and this one was available at my local hobby store.  Not that Syren was my only option, I chose this one because I found the subject compelling, and the model quite beautiful.  Once we moved, I found that my new work space was on the small side, so I chose smaller projects to work on in my free time.  However, after building the longboat, and seeing so many other great builds on here, I was inspired to begin Syren regardless of the less than ideal space.


To begin the build, I made short work of the false keel, keel, and stem assembly.  Taking time of course to make sure that all of the parts were properly aligned, and fitted.  I unfortunately do not have any pictures of the bulkhead installation, not sure how that happened.  I have seen many great and ingenious ways of making sure one's bulkheads are aligned on this site, and I decided to follow suit by borrowing some of my Son's Duplo blocks to use as squares.  They worked great!










Over the next few days, I will be adding to this log, up to the point at which the build is currently.  (transom framing)  However, my building efforts over the coming weeks will be to wrap up the long boat.  Unless of course the winds of inspiration blow contrary to the best of intentions.  ;)

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Filler Blocks and Fairing:


The filler blocks that I used are put together from several 1/2" X 1/2" pieces of balsa.  I did not have access to anything larger in any store within an hour from here, and the tools that I have at present are really not capable of cutting much thicker, so I decided to have a go by making compound blocks.  This is the first time I have had to put filler blocks into anything, but I think I might have hit upon something good by using the compound blocks at the bow and stern. As the profile of the ship sweeps in toward the center, or toward the keel, I was able to subtract blocks instead of cutting large chunks out of a single mass.


Fairing was an easy process until I stopped paying attention to what I was doing, I think something my four year old was doing in the next room caught my attention, and Snap!  My stem piece was laying on the floor.  That makes me two for two in breaking off stems on wooden models.  The upside is, that it was a clean break, and the seam will be hidden by copper eventually.











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Nice work there Jason. I used laminated blocks myself and it worked out well. Really take your time on fairing, checking constantly with a plank to make sure the run is smooth. Fairing is the foundation for what's to come.


Well done!

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Darn it David ------ that's one of our 'secrets'.  You didn't get that far yet :D  :D


They do make the frame stiff, straight and strong.  And they keep it that way.  In fact once you do the planking you could use the hull as a Louisville Slugger.

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Thank You Augie!  I have been following your build log, it was a major motivator at getting my Syren underway.


You are welcome David.  They do make the model very strong, and give it a nice heft.  I try to put at least one thing that I learned along the way in each of my posts in hopes that they will help others in the hobby.

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Gun Port Framing:


I still have a couple of posts to go to catch up to where I am actually at with this build, So hopefully I will get caught up this week.


The gun port framing on my Syren was a challenge for me.  I started it because I wanted to do some "rough" work instead of continuing with the "fine" details of my longboat.  What I did not know, was the "rough" work has some pretty tight tolerances in it to make it right.  In the end I know I will have issues down the road with some of the ports.  Although, I did just purchase a digital micrometer, and after taking measurements all over the framing I can say that they are pretty remarkably consistent 


One thing to keep track of during the framing process, would be to check and double check your alignment of the sills and lintels against the markings on the bulkheads.  There are a few places where I am noticeably off despite being aware of this alignment during construction.


Something That I did that I would say worked well, is that i made jigs for the gun and sweep ports, that were the correct dimensions for the opening of the respective ports.  While installing the posts, I would insert the jig into the port space, and set the posts accordingly to the jig.  
















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Hi Jason, did you use temporary batterns to help get an even sheer line or did you just use the laser etch marks? I think Chuck recommended to use the batterns incase the bulkhead heights were slightly off or the etch marks were incorrect.



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Thank you Geoffrey!


Ben, I used the marks the first time around, then I switched to battens when I redid the sills and lintels.  Even so, I made a few mistakes, though I will accept them as part of the learning process.   These being the first gunports I have ever modeled.  

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Transom Framing:


Retrospectively, I would have done this stage a little differently than what was executed.  Somehow being more precise with the framing.  Using the provided template, the gunports came out a little out of true, though I am able to fix it with some creative filing.  Perhaps the most difficult part of this process for me was the fairing.  I sanded in fear of the whole assembly breaking under the strain, though I managed to get through it without breaking anything. 











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Looking good, you have a nice skeleton going there Jason.


Its funny you mention the precision of rough work, I think the only difference is that rough work gets covered up ;) and there's nothing wrong with creative filing. Use what works. I like your jig idea (block I'm guessing) to frame the dimensions of the ports also.


...and another Syren hits the shipyards. Its always interesting to see how different people work on the same kit. Of course the Syrens aren't near as chaotic as say the San Francisco and its many versions and poor instructions.


I'll be following along, Augie are you tendin' bar. I'll have a sasparilla and where is Sjors with the popcorn.

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She's looking good.  Glad you installed those braces in the transom ---- that really is a bit vulnerable at this point.


Truing up the gunports and sweep ports with a file or sandpaper jig is something we probably all did.  Pay close attention now as once you start planking any minor asymetry becomes magnified and it gets harder to correct.  Don't look too closely at my build or you will discover how I know this :D

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Thanks Keith and Augie.


@ Kevin, Yes the jig was a block, cut to the width / height of the port and a handle glued on to it for easy maneuvering.  I was pleased with how it worked.


@ Augie, I am trying to be patient and take my time with all of these framing details, to help out I purchased a micrometer to help out in the filing.  And I have looked at your Syren as close as the photography allows, it looks very good to me!   

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Bow and Stern Filler Blocks:


With this entry in the build log I will be caught up to where I currently am in the building process for the Syren.  


The bow and the stern were giving me a lot of problems in getting the correct shape.  First the Bow...


I started to dry fit a plank along several places on the bow, when i realized that the filler blocks were not in the correct position.  They were too far astern to correctly back a plank sitting in the rabbit, so they had to come off.  In the process I re-faired the blocks, and installed balsa fillers between the first bulkhead and the bow filler blocks.  I used 1/2" by 1/2" balsa and sanded to shape.




Now the Stern...


I started by using the technique described in the instructions, but I had two problems.  The first being, by framing the adjacent sides of the triangle only, I was having a very hard time fairing the blocks to conform to the correct compound curve.  The second, being that the supplied wood was just too hard for my taste.  I wanted something softer.


So, I removed the already installed stern filler blocks, and replaced them with the same balsa stock that I used in the bow.  The soft wood shaped up nicely in a few minutes.










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  • 2 weeks later...

The begining of planking:


I have not been able to devote much time to my ship yard lately, as the demands of the workplace have been great.  However, i have been able to start my planking on the Syren, so I wanted to update what I have done...  Mean while the longboat sits idle on the shelf.  I knew those inspirational winds would blow against my intentions  ;)


One thing I have to say first of all, is that I am a little confused by the wood provided in the kit.  I have not had the dimension problem that others are posting about, though I think that perhaps I do not work to the same tolerances.  What I am having a problem with, is the woods grain and consistancy.  Putting a fine edge on it has been a real challenge seemingly no matter what tool or grit of sandpaper I use.  It just seems to slough off in big pieces.  Perhaps I am doing something wrong?


I pinned the wales onto the frame to mark the location of the upper edge on both sides, being careful to sight along each side, and not having any bumps in the line.  I used my digital caliper to assure that each station was identical on both sides.  




Once the locations were marked, I pre-bent the wales using the following technique.  After soaking the wood for 5 minutes, I would clamp it around the outside of a mason jar for another 5 min.  I found that this left the wood rather supple, with just about the right amount of curve in it.  I then sanded the end to be placed in the rabbit to fit.




I did make a nice mistake here, I installed the port wale with the wrong dimension of planking, so off it came and round two was better.


Starting on the starboard side at the bow I began to plank from the wale up.  When I came to a gun or sweep port I used a sharp knife and a needle file to make the required notches around the port.  For this process, I just eyeballed.  They came out decently consistent for my taste.  Personaly I am more in the representation rather than replication school of thinking, though I greatly admire extremely fine work.




Besides creating a small pile of unsatisfactory pieces, the rest of the process went smoothly, except for knocking out the middle filler block out of the transom during trimming of the planks at the stern.










The beginnings of a nice sheer line!






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Moving right along there, Jason.  Yes, you'll have a few pieces of scrap due to those notches.....but you have plenty of wood to work with.


I think many of us struggled with the edges of the wood.  It's a matter of how much patience you have.  I should have taken more time than I did.  That said, you can still do a decent job using the kit provided wood.  You will face this throughout hull and deck planking. 


The real solution, I believe, would be to order alternative wood from one of the suppliers on MSW.  You might consider an alternate wood to basswood and might also consider cutting wider planks down yourself --- these prove useful in the hull planking.  I'm going to consider this on the next build.


A kit is a compromise of quality and cost.  Overall, ME has done a good job and Chuck's instructions are geared toward using kit supplied materials.  In the end (and I'm close now), it all works pretty well.  But you'll begin to understand why many gravitate toward scratch building if they are seeking perfection.


We are all learning continuously, no matter where we are on the expertise level.  The amount of time you put in and where you set your standards is completely up to you.  And I'm willing to bet that your port side comes out even better!

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  • 2 months later...

Well, it has been awhile since I have been able to get much done in the shipyard, work being very busy and real life demanding at the moment.  However I have been able to do the other side of upper planking, the transom, the remainder of the first layer of the wales, and the garboard planks in the last week or so.  


With my last post, I mentioned my frustration with the wood provided with the kit.  Following your advice Augie, I have been more patient with the process and as a consequence, have been rewarded with a better understanding of how to use the supplied material more effectively.  I am having far fewer problems, after working out appropriate methods of preparing the pieces, and taking my time... to the extent that my eagerness allows any way.


As to the reference about being in the "representation" school, that should be better explained as an expression of a running philosophical struggle that I have with myself, and with co-workers.  I make models for a living, though they are mathematical constructs and not ships, they do represent something real.  In specific case, buildings and how they use energy.  We argue all the time as to what it means to "model" something.  Anyway, just a clarification as to where I was coming from, i.e. not rationalizing my build quality.


That being said, on to the build update!  Again, Augie, you where right that the other side would come out better!  With more patience comes better plank placement.  I followed the printed practicum very closely, and got results accordingly.  The practicum states that once the wales plus one 1/8" plank, and the garboard plank, plus two 1/8" planks are installed, you should have room for 22 - 23 (1/8") planks as measured from the amidships bulkhead.  That is exactly what I got!  I was excited.  The one thing that did come out a little different, is that my Transom sits one plank, as seen from the side, higher than it should.  Not really sure how that happened since the turn of the counter is dictated by the shape of the laser cut parts, but that is how it turned out.  After checking the internal height of the gun ports, it still works, so I am going to run with it.


One piece of advise I can give is, take your time with the transom, particularly shaping the bottom edge to meeting the counter planking.  I was left with a gap, after hurrying to get the transom glued on before I needed to quit for the night.  I am hoping that it will be covered by a trim piece.


















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Nice progress.  Glad you're getting more comfortable with the planking process as now you're coming up on the main hull.  Slow and steady now.  Garboard run looks good!


You'll be able to 'finesse' that little gap on the transom as you move ahead. When you get to the transom cap rail, it can be a challenge to get the bend right.  I believe Chuck used 3 pieces.  I used one.  Either way it's not the easiest thing to do.  You need to soak the wood well, perhaps more tan once, or it may split.  The trick is to find a 'good' piece of wood that will take it so don't be afraid to try different pieces if you run into a problem.  Just be patient.


Sounds like you are enjoying yourself.  That's what it's all about :)

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Thank you everybody!  I am having fun with this, and seeing the boat take shape is very satisfying.  It feels good to make something with one's hands when so much of a day is spent creating and updating spreadsheets  :P


Dirk, can you suggest a supplier for the bending beech?  I would appreciate the direction.

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