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Charles W. Morgan by Calhoun Zabel - RESTORATION - Warning: Graphic

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Hoooooo boy, where to even begin...


Maybe some background: My grandfather was a prolific model maker, spending his retirement assembling models with what I can only assume were kits, judging by how long scratch builds seem to take. He passed away some years ago, and his models were either split between his children or sold - I recently inherited one of the ones we kept. That model is the Charles W. Morgan, and boy is it in rough shape.


If the title didn't warn you enough, I'll say it again - this poor ship has seen much better days. Here are some pictures:



Top of the Mainmast:IMG_20180715_195345.thumb.jpg.161b49b6e2c778242cb95a416480376a.jpg

The Bow:


At the stern, I don't know what this is called, but it's one of many broken ... booms?


There's a broken railing on the starboard side:


A good example of the general state of the rigging:


The hull has also been beat up (starboard forward):


Aft on the starboard side:



As you can see, there's lots of damage, and that's why I'm here. I need help. I don't know where to begin. 


I don't know what kit this is, where I can find plans, and what the right order of operations will be. 


To start, I'll be dusting - I know how to do that! 


Any tips, tricks, or suggestions are more than appreciated - at this point, I think it's necessary. 

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Hi - 


You certainly have a large challenge in front of you.  Whenever I am approached to restore a hobby-built kit model, I always ask "How much do you love the model and the modeler?"  In your case your love for your grandfather and his work is quite evident.  That settled, there is a huge amount of work to be done, but it is not hopeless at all.  Taking it one step at a time is the way to go, just like building the kit in the first place.


If you do go forward, I recommend that you get "Ship Modelers' Shop Notes, vol. II" from the NRG shop.  I included a specific section on restorations.  Rob Napier and others give a good introduction to the skills and methods used.  Rob has a longer article in the Journal which you can get, and he has written a book on his restoration of an antique museum model.


I am always happy to help out with general questions or specific problems.  Don't worry about my time.  Second only to building ship models I love talking about them.  Contact me through this website or my email at shipmodel@aol.com


Best of success




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Thank you Backer, I did also find that link, but the link to the plans within that topic is dead - it seems that particular museum no longer sells plans for any ships, let alone for the Charles W. Morgan. The only plans I can find are sold by Mystic, where the Charles W. Morgan currently resides, for what seems like an excessive amount... I may have to just bite the bullet, but I am hopeful other plans exist out there.



Shipmodel, I'll check out the Shop Notes booklet, thanks. I appreciate you being willing to help, as well. There definitely is a lot of work, but I'm not too concerned with being overwhelmed or anything - after all, I have no real deadline for this. I'll pick at it piece by piece when I have time, so it won't be too stressful.


In the meantime, is there anything I can or should get started on? My biggest question at this point is: should I be considering re-rigging the entire ship? If I tear it all down, I'll have much easier access to everything else on the ship... I'm just not sure about re-doing it. Woodworking I can handle, rigging is a whole new world. 

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Judging from the look of the wood, I'm guessing that your model was built from the old 1/50 scale Artesania Latina kit. I don't know if that kit is still in production or not, but the company is still in business.


Since this is a restoration of a kit build, I have moved the topic to the kits section. Best of luck on your project!

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27 minutes ago, ccoyle said:

Judging from ...

Thank you ccoyle, for both the information and for correcting my error. 

I've reached out to Artesania Latina to ask if they still have plans. The kit is no longer available, but like you said, they are still in business. Fingers crossed!


EDIT: Well, they got back to me rather quickly - no more plans are available from them, as this is a model from the 80's. Understandable, but a tad disappointing. 

Edited by czabel
Update rather than double post
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Hi there,
This may help, Model expo does sell a model of the CW Morgan probably a different scale. Being this is all new to you consider this approach. On their web site they post the instructions for the model.The instructions will give you an idea of what goes where and in what order. So you will have some understanding of your undertaking, the link is  http://modelexpo-online.com/model-shipways-charles-morgan-whale-bark-1-64-scl


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@czabel i personally would take at least the running rigging apart, especially due to the fact, that you need access to fix those tops, yards and booms.

Also i think part of the standing rigging should be corrected - the masts seem to be misaligned so at least the stays should be checked.


The Shrouds themselves are most painful to redo because of the ratlines but they seem fine, might need to be tightened a bit but you can do that on the chainplates or deadeye lanyards  (that's what they are for actually)

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Mark and Steve, thank you for those links. It's looking more and more likely that I'll need to purchase the plans, rather than finding them somewhere.


Jasseji, I appreciate the input. That seems as good a place as any to start, because like you said it gives me access to more things. You've also taught me that I really need to learn my ship terminology. I recognize some of those words, but others... I also need to figure out what constitutes the standing vs. running rigging. That'll be spelled out in the plans, I assume. 

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Do you really need plans?  First get your camera out and photograph everything.  You are not building an accurate model of the Morgan.  You are trying to restore your grandfather’s model and to preserve his workmanship. The photos should give you a good idea of what he did.


Used books may be much cheaper than a complete set of Mystic Plans.  Maynard Bray has authored  book describing Mystic’s watercraft collection.  The original edition which should be available  on used book sites includes a copy of at least some of the Morgan’s drawings.  You should also be able to find a book “Whaleships and Whaling” by man named Church that includes many vintage photographs.


If this were my model I would remove all of the rigging so I could clean the hull and deck structures (saliva and lots of Qtips).  I would make new spars as necessary using the old ones as patterns and re-rig.  



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You might want to check with your local Library to see what books they can get for you.  The Reference Desk at mine is very good at getting me books and materials, I know I must drive them ------.  Just my opinion, but I would Preserve as much of your Grandfather work as possible,  even if not perfect, it is the art of that artist-Hal

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Thank you for The heads up John, I hadn't dug hard enough to find the other, which is more reasonably priced. I think it will be necessary, as I look closer I am finding more empty spaces that look like they once held parts. Making the replacements would be fun, don't get me wrong, but it might consume more time than I'm going to be able to spend, currently.


Roger, thank you for the tips on the books. This is exactly why I posted here, there's all sorts of knowledge that I don't even know that I don't know. I'll take a look and see what Powell's has to offer. However, I might still pick up a kit. I may not strictly need plans, but the parts would be very useful. 


As for removing the rigging, would that be to just clip all the strings, but leave the hardware in place? For example, leave the deadeyes(?) In place? 


Seahawk, that's an excellent idea. We just moved, and I haven't found our local library yet, but I'm sure going to now. Thank you! 

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For anyone curious, Mystic has kindly digitized Bray's book, Boat Plans at Mystic Seaport for viewing, in the research area of their site. It contains a barebones drawing of the rigging, and a lines drawing. Thanks for the tip on that one Roger. 


I do think I'll cut all the lines to clean and work on the hull/deck, it's the re-doing of the rigging that scares me a bit. 

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One other place to look (it may be a red herring, but it's a nice red herring) is the Wooden Boat Forum. This thread is done by a Mystic Seaport Volunteer and documents some of the rebuilding of the Morgan a couple years ago.




Again, it may not be very relevant, but it sure is fun to read and look at.


Hope that helps.





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Well, I made some progress last night. 


I removed all the loose broken pieces, and swabbed the deck. :piratetongueor4:5b50f33710da1_IMG_20180718_225024-Copy.thumb.jpg.488c597ee206371f0f986faa04a80d3b.jpg

That ugly white spot (I don't know what it is) is mostly gone, as you can see here:


And look, some of the wood even has a bit of a shine on it! Looks like there was some finishing done, before the years of dust settled in...



I'm encouraged by this, but also a little concerned - after it had been sitting in our hot garage for a few days, there's a distinct smell of cigarette smoke. My grandpa was a smoker, so I'm not sure if this is a feature or not. It's certainly authentic to his style though... 

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@Calhoun Zabel good start :D


Yes, ship terminology is needed indeed :D

Standing rigging: all those lines which are holding the masts in place (usually black) and they are not moved during sailing, although in your case i see the backstays are not black, backstays on your model=those 2 lines running from mast tops to ship sides behind the shrouds, shrouds=those with the "ladders" (ratlines)


Anything which is not supposed to be changed by the sailors during a cruise 


Running rigging is everything which is movable and is used to position the yards, hoist sails etc.

Deadeyes = the round wooden thingies with 3 holes on ship sides which the shrouds and backstays connect to (via lanyards)


Everything else are just rigging blocks 


The swabbing is a good job :D

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And so it begins.. glad to see you’ve begun! I think you need to follow Rodger’s advice and remove all the rigging after you photograph everything. (Save all blocks and dead eyes) Don’t worry too much about cleaning the decks to perfection. Remove as much dust as you can with the swabs or whatever gentle techniques you can think of. Remember, you will do some light sanding with fine sandpaper (320 or finer) before you refinish.


There are many wood finishes to consider when you reach that point. Some leave more shine than others. I think many will agree the less shine the better. I would advise against using any stain, as that will alter your grandfathers work too much. Minwax Wipe on Poly (satin finish) is used by many to provide a finish that will give you a polished look without too much shine. More on application later. 


There are many approaches to each project. You’ll figure out the best methods for yourself. I’m sharing how I would approach this if my grandfather left it to me. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

Welcome and it looks like you have yourself quite a project! I will echo the others in saying that it would probably be best to redo the rigging. It will make cleaning and restoring the ship easier and you will get some good experience with rigging. In any case, have fun with it and when your done you will have a nice model and heirloom to display.


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I will definitely be redoing the rigging. I am starting that whole process tonight, actually. Beginning with taking TONS of pictures. 


As I do this process, I'm going to start trying to figure out the rigging process... Where do I start? What do I look for in terms of materials? I'm probably going to leave the shrouds in place, as the lower masts are intact and I'm sure my grandpa spent a good deal of time on them. (Yes, I know the ratlines are incorrectly colored... My next model will be accurate, I promise 😉). Do I need to find real-world references and scale the dimensions appropriately? What would those references be?


Boy, how deep the rabbit hole goes... 😵

Edited by Calhoun Zabel
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Measure her and calculate ;)


There is a rope diameter sheet somewhere on the forums (in the rigging section i think)


usually when you rig a ship, you start with the Bowsprit, then the mast shrouds, next the Stays - the bowsprit needs to be rigged properly first, because the stays are attached to it and it holds the fore-and-aft position of the masts


in your case, you have like 90% of the standing rigging done (shrouds and ratlines) so propably only minor adjustments are needed on the stays and maybe lanyards ;)


If you dont like the color of the ratlines, you can always dye them a bit


Ambitious projects are best :D

Edited by Jasseji
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On the home page under our sponsors, Syren is a great place for rigging rope. Chuck also has the rigging size chart posted there that you can download to determine what will be needed. 


Typically, any standing rigging, shrouds, stays etc. (ropes that do not move) would be a dark brown - black color as they were covered in tar to help preserve them against the salt water and sun light. Running rigging, (ropes that controlled the sails and yards) would have been a tan color as they were natural fibers.


As for quantities, you can try to measure out the individual stands as they come off for a rough estimate. Always add plenty of extra to any length as you will need plenty of waste to help tie off the ropes. I typically order at least 20% more than what I think I will need. Always have a "next" project that it can be used on!

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EJ, thanks for the pointer toward Syren, looks like their prices are reasonable. 


Thank you all for the tips - I'm feeling slightly more confident now that I've got a supplier and a rough plan. I'll be using the PDF sheet on Syren's rope page to match up what sizes I need as I pull them off and measure lengths. Time to make another spreadsheet to keep tabs on things, and pictures, pictures, pictures... 

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A small update, while I procrastinate cutting the rigging off... 


I decided that the old, super rough display stand wasn't worth keeping around any more, and that I could do MUCH better. 


I started by picking rough spots for stand positions, and drew curves that I thought might work. I cut them out of some card stock, and placed them against the hull, re-cutting and adjusting position until I was happy with the fit. Here's what I ended up with:




You can also see the stern has the rough shape of the stand that I'm going to make. I was inspired by a dock cleat, which I thought was fitting.


Next, I dropped these pictures into Fusion 360 to draw up the final products:



Next step is to set up a quick toolpath for the small CNC at work, and cut out test pieces from 0.5" MDF:


Quick cleanup with an exacto, a test fit, and now we know these don't quite fit. I scaled one of my reference images improperly, so day 2 sees a new set for testing:




Better fit, but there's still need for another revision. I'm not sure I'm a fan of how far they extend up the sides. Am I way overdoing these?



Should I just make little stubby pieces to "grab" the keel and call it good? Any input here on preferred mounting solutions would be appreciated. 


EDIT: Oh, and if anyone's curious about the Fusion stuff, I'm happy to share more detail on that process. 


Edited by Calhoun Zabel
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