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Muscongus Bay Lobster Smack by RCboater Bill - Bluejacket - 1:8 scale - RADIO - Small


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My wife wanted “a big sailboat” to go on top of the living room bookcases, so I’m happy to oblige!   I chose the Bluejacket Shipcrafters 46” long plank on bulkhead kit. The plan is to build it as an RC model....

 

The kit is an old Laughing Whale design, one that hasn’t gone through BlueJacket’s updating process yet.  But the kit still makes a fine impression upon opening- bundles of nice wood strips (basswood, mostly, with some Mahogany), and nicely packed fittings in typical BJ style. There are multiple sheets of lovely laser cut parts. There are three large plan sheets, one with profile and deck plans, one with all the laser cut parts plus extra detail and illustrations, and a sail plan.  The instructions are perhaps the weakest part of the kit - they look like what you got from Laughing Whale back in the 80s, as opposed to the more detailed instructions you’d find in a more modern kit.  The instructions for installing the RC gear are OK for an experienced RC sailor, but a first (RC) timer would need outside help.....

(My intention is to use this build log to organize and capture my thoughts, and provide some feedback to Nic at BJ.)

 

Warning to readers:  I am a slow builder.  My last model took about 200 hours over the course of nine months to complete-  that’s averaging 23 hours a month!  

 

 

 

 

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Here’s my first work photo- using up the keel parts and prepping the bulkheads.

 

My first tip:  it is much easier to finish the inside of the centerboard trunk before it is assembled.  I considered using epoxy resin, but was concerned that a run or blob would be missed, and I would end up with a hard-to-remove rock that would prevent the keel from sliding in.  So instead, I just applied a couple coats of thin super glue. It soaked into the wood and then hardened. A second coat left me with a glossy sheen, so I know I have good coverage.  

 

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As mentioned in my first post, the kit features beautifully done laser cut parts, and they match the drawings on the plans exactly.   There is a minor problem, though- the parts don’t always match each other.  Nothing too serious- nothing that the application of a little modeling skill can’t fix!  (As far as I can tell, the errors are in the plans, so the laser cut parts replicate them perfectly.)

 

An issue that needs to be dealt with is the width of the first 3 bulkheads— they are too narrow when compared to the main deck, by a little over 1/4 inch. Also, the slots for where they fit over the keel are too narrow.  The shape of the main deck looks great, it is symmetrical, with a nice even curve, so I decided I’d use it as the master, and tweak the bulkheads to match it. 

 

I don’t think it would be too hard to add some strip wood to widen the bulkheads a little, but I decided it would be easier to just cut new ones from a sheet of modeling plywood. (And use my new jigsaw!)

 

Here’s a pic of my new larger pieces, with the originals on top.  

 

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Edited by Rcboater Bill
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Still in catchup mode, documenting work I had already done before deciding to start this log....

 

Another tip:   Draw center lines on the bulkheads before installing them. It will make it much easier to get and keep them aligned when installing them.   (I wish all laser cut bulkheads had reference lines like this scored into the parts- it would be so easy to do that in the CAD drawing before sending it to the laser cutter!)

 

The kit instructions suggest putting all four bulkheads and the transom in place, then using the battens to get everything aligned before gluing. I couldn’t do that even if I had eight arms!  Instead, I started at the bow.  The breasthook parts make it easier to get F1 in place and squared up. Note that this bulkhead is the only one not perpendicular to the bottom of the keel!    

 

The instructions recommend using CyA glues for assembly.  I like something stronger for my operating models- so I am using waterproof Titebond for some joints.  I used it on the bulkhead-to-keel joints, to give plenty of time to check and re-check that everything is square.  Once I was happy with the alignment, I used little dabs of medium CyA to tack the parts in place while the yellow glue cured.

 

 

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I will be following along with this build as I have the Laughing Whale 21 inch Muscongus Bay Smack in my stash .  This is an original

kit from Laughing Whale that I hope to build someday. Good luck on your build .

                                                                                                                                              Bob Porter

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Each step so far has involved letting things dry overnight before moving to the next one...

With the first two bulkheads in place, It was time for F3. Getting that aligned with the forward edge of the deck cutout for the cockpit is most important, so I installed the deck at the same time. It will be easy to add in F4 and the transom after this sets...

 

The outboard clamps port and starboard give the deck the camber set by the tops of the bulkheads.

 

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Lots of stuff on the domestic project list lately, so I have only gotten in a few hours in on the model over the week or so...

The bulkheads and deck deck are all assembled and true. I have started to fit the battens that were intended for use as an aid in getting the bulkheads aligned.  I have started some preliminary fitting a couple of planks, to get a feel for what planking will be like.  

 

The instructions have you start planking with the sheer planks which are 1 inch wide. I don’t see how that is going to work-  the hull has a fair amount of sheer- I can’t see how I’ll be able to bend a 1/8” x 1 inch strip of basswood (48” long)  against the width of the piece, no matter how long I soak it!  ( It needs to be about 2.5 inches off  in the middle.)

 

Scaled up, the kit parts equate to a 30’ boat that is getting planked with a 1”x 8” sheer plank, with the rest of the planking being 1x3 material.  That doesn’t sound unreasonable, but I do wonder if an 8 inch wide plank would be bent that much in a small boatyard.  Is a 4” wide  plank (1/2 inch on the model) reasonable for a boat from the 1870s?   

 

Going to to have to think about this a bit....  

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the last two weeks, I have had no time to work on the model- but I have been thinking about a.solution for the sheer planks.   I’m going to try making a bending jig using some scrap plywood left over from a bookcase project.  Tonight I made the cardstock template, to use to cut the ply.   The picture shows the template and the piece of 1” wide wood resting on the 3/4” ply.   The wide plank  needs to bent to that curve!

 

I will use the the bandsaw to cut the curve, to make the jig..

 

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  • 2 months later...
10 minutes ago, 140flyer said:

As a very new member I am not sure I'm navigating properly.

You are. Bill just hasn't made any updates lately. Fear not, though -- he was on the forum today, so we know that at least he is still with us!

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I took a couple of months off from this build, so I could finish my Revell USCG Cutter- a gift for a classmate and former crew member. (Completed build log is here on MSW.)  I delivered the model last weekend, so now it is “Back to the Smack”!

 

In the long time off, the sheer plank I had soaked and bent lost about half the curve.  So I soaked it again and put it back in the jig.

 

As I fiddle about with the planking preparation, I am also thinking about installing the RC. The kit gives a simple diagram for a suggested RC install, but working out the details is up to the builder.  I realized that working out the layout and geometry will be a lot easier now, before the planks are installed.

I did some test fitting, and quickly determined that a sail arm servo isn’t going to work, so I bought a drum sailwinch. There are other considerations I need to sort out in regards to making this an RC model. One is the rudder linkage- the suggested install has the rudder servo in the cabin, and a Gold’n’rod aircraft style “flexible” pushrod linkage to the rudder. I bought one at the LHS, and it seems like an awfully tight radius at the stern for the pushrod to make. The next more flexible rod uses a small diameter cable center, and I’m concerned that it wouldn’t be strong enough to handle the loads imposed by the boat’s huge unbalanced barn door rudder. So maybe I need a bell crank aft...?

I’m also concerned about watertight integrity. As designed, the entire aft end of the boat is open to the bilges. (The fish well and the fore peak are sealed compartments.) That would be OK for a calm water motorboat, but seems like asking for trouble with a sailboat....

 

IMG_6089-L.jpg

 

Edited by Rcboater Bill
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 I spent an hour playing around with the RC tiller and aileron bellcranks and a servo to figure out the right geometry to use. Sorting something out is complicated by the open cockpit and the fact that the rudder axis is about 30 degrees from vertical. This makes the geometry of the linkage rather tricky, as a tiller not only moves port - stbd, but has a vertical change as well.

My conclusion: I am going to mount the rudder servo aft. I will cut an access hatch aft, and then install the servo at the same 30 degree tilt as the rudder, to put the servo arm and the tiller in the same plane. This will give me a simple direct linkage for the servo to tiller connection. My plan is to use a high-torque metal geared servo, as I expect a standard servo may not be able to handle the loads imposed by the large, unbalanced rudder.

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The BJ kit provides a lovely thin piece of laser cut mahogany to be attached to the ply transom.  But I am not going to use it, for two reasons:   One, I think that while a nice varnished mahogany transom would be gorgeous, I think it is too “ yacht-y” for a hard working fishing boat.   Two, even if I wanted to use it, it is too small, because I had earlier replaced the kit ply transom with a new one that is slightly wider, to better match the deck.

 

I was looking in a book I have on Frienship sloops, and it had a nice photo that showed the construction of the transom, which was planked.  So I decided to just plank the transom with some of the 1/8 x 3/8” stock.  

 

A benefit of this is that I have effectively doubled the gluing area for the planks where they overlap the transom.

 

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Edited by Rcboater Bill
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I have (finally) successfully installed both of the 1/8” x 1” sheer planks, and can now move on to the smaller planks.

 

I have to say- I don’t get why Laughing Whale designed the kit this way.  The first step in planking the this hull is the hardest- trying to bend a one-inch wide plank to match the boat’s sheer.  It was really hard to do, and if you mess it up, it will affect the rest of your planking job.

 

In hindsight, I should have tossed those 1” wide planks and used narrower stock. Could have saved myself weeks of time-  making jigs, soaking, test fitting, ironing, waiting for stuff to dry, re-soaking, etc. etc.

 

Nic-  When the time comes for you guys to look at updating this kit, I’d suggest taking a hard look at this step....!  

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am still slowly working on the model. It is rather chilly in my basement shop, so I am not spending a lot of time down there these days.... 

But I have made a start on the planking. I’ve got the first two added to hull P&S. My procedure is to put a 1/8 by 3/8 basswood plank in the PVC pipe to soak over night. The next day, I’ll pull it out, and clamp it in place to dry. A day to three later, I glue it in place and put the next one in the soaker...
It is a slow process, drawn out much longer than it needs to be, but it allows me to at least make some progress while it is so cold down there...!

Here you can see the wet third plank on the port side clamped in place to dry. Once it dries, I find the pre- formed plank is much easier to glue in place.  Note that the apparent mismatch between a couple of planks is a bit of an optical illusion- the hard shadow is caused by the location of the overhead light.  There is a slight step in places, but that will quickly disappear when sanded.

 

-Bill

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When you have a few moments could you describe the fin/ballast plan for the lobster smack?  I have built two of Gary Webbs Emma schooners which have a long fin with lead ballast bulbs.  They are my only rc boat experience, and I am very interested as to how this aspect of the smack is to be done.  Thank you for any info you can share.

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11 hours ago, 140flyer said:

When you have a few moments could you describe the fin/ballast plan for the lobster smack?  I have built two of Gary Webbs Emma schooners which have a long fin with lead ballast bulbs.  They are my only rc boat experience, and I am very interested as to how this aspect of the smack is to be done.  Thank you for any info you can share.

The kit includes a drawing for a keel and a recommended shape to use to make your own lead bulb. No installation instructions are provided, but it is pretty obvious that the fin is shaped to fit in the centerboard slot.  The assumption is that you’d just glue it in, it seems.

 

A club mate built this model as an RC Boat. He made the keel removeable, with a threaded rod embedded in the fin, and a wing nut to retain it in the hull.  (The usual method used on most ARF sailboats.) He glued the kit centerboard to a nice display base. When he gets home with the model, he removes the sailing keel and sets the model on the waiting centerboard.  I think that’s pretty clever, and I am planning to copy it.

 

I took a photo of the relevant section of the plan, showing the shape of the keel.

 

-Bill

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Edited by Rcboater Bill
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  • 1 month later...

I checked my build log- I have recorded exactly three one-hour sessions working on this model in the shop in the last 30 days!   I spent most of my time doing a full cleanup and re-organization of my space. Now that is done, so I returned to working on the garboard planks.

The kit provides two more of the one-inch wide basswood planks for this step.  I was dreading installing these at first, given how hard it was to bend the sheer planks. But it turns out the garboard planks mostly need twisting, and not the curving the sheer ones did.  A good overnight soak made it reasonably easy to clamp a wet plank in place to dry.

 

Here’s a shot of how the garboard plank looked after it dried:

 

 

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Edited by Rcboater Bill
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  • 2 months later...

I am still working on the model,  when I have the time.  It was a long cold spring, so I didn't spend much time working on the model in my basement shop.  But I am still slowly planking the hull-- sometimes only a plank or two a week.  Now that it is getting warmer, I can spend more time....

 

The hull is planked  is planked from the deck down, and from the keel up.  About the a third of the planking remains-- the hard part at the turn of the bilge.   I have also given the interior surfaces of the bulkheads a coat of epoxy resin, to waterproof them in case water ever gets in.  

 

No pictures now-- I am committing all sorts of planking sins, tapering planks to a point, etc.  I can get away with it because I will be fiberglassing and painting the hull.   (And because there will be no photographic evidence!) 

 

-Bill

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hit a major milestone last night- the hull is planked!
I started kit on  August 30.  Now, 10.5 months later, the hull is planked!   It was a tedious process at times, but the main reason it took this long was that it was a long cold winter, and I didn’t spend much time in my basement workshop.

 

Don’t look too closely-  there are a bunch of planking sins committed over the winter!   I knew I could get away with them, as the next step is a thorough sanding to smooth the less-than-perfect planking joints, followed by a coat of fiberglass...

 

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