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Portland by Tom in NC - FINISHED - Bluejacket Shipcrafters - scale 1/8 - my re-entry into the model ship world after a 45 year absence

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After an absence of about 45 years I got back into ship modeling in March 2018.  The Portland was a Bluejacket model that my wife gave me as a gift about 30 years ago.  My workload then kept me away from starting on it and we've been lugging it around in a big box ever since.  I formally retired in 1999, and somehow got tangled up in designing and building custom furniture.  Then, early this year and 15 years later, I decided I'd done that long enough and started cleaning my shop in preparation for selling off my tools.  It was at that point I re-discovered the Portland, languishing on a tall shelf and pretty well covered with sawdust. I almost tossed it, but couldn't resist giving modeling another try.  Now I'm firmly hooked.


What follows is a brief report and some of the things I learned during this build.  I know that a build log is supposed to follow the build process as you go along, but last March I didn't have any of that in mind, didn't take many pictures, and had never heard of this fine organization that i'm now a member of.  So consider this as a brief description of the build process relating to a 30-year old version of the Portland, the things I learned as I did it, and the results when I finished it.  My next build log, relating to the Cutty Sark by Mantua Sergal will be started shortly and I'll catch you up with what I've done so far and have you follow me along as I tackle the heaviest lift - the rigging.


Now for the Portland ...


The Portland was a paddle wheel steamer that mostly served a route between Boston and Portland, ME.  It looks to me like it was a pretty high-class ride.  As is the case with many well-known ships The Portland sank in a violent storm shortly after departing Boston.  There were no survivors.


This is a solid hull wooden model, and the version I had to work with was not presented with laser-cut parts, etc.  The pictures were not very clear, the directions assumed that I was an Admiral class constructor (I'm not) and I found the whole thing very difficult.  Today's version of the Portland by Bluejacket looks to be vastly improved in quality & content.  Check it out.


As mentioned earlier, I didn't know I'd be submitting a build log, the pictures that follow are not as good as those found in many other build logs.


After shaping the hull I started on the decks.  They had to be laid out on provided plywood and cut out with a scroll saw.  Thanks to my unfamiliarity with this work I had to make adjustments along the way (even going out and buying more plywood to replace the sheets that I ruined.  


It took me several weeks to reach this point.  The directions re how to build the paddle wheels were so sketchy as to be useless.  The spoked "wheels" were brass, but how to hold three brass wheels together and glue tiny individual paddle onto them was a real head-scratcher.  Ultimately, knowing that the hub section of the wheels would be hidden, I simply glued rounded blocks of wood between all of them to hold them in position while I glued tiny paddle elements to them.  And something else that the directions didn't cover well was the creation and shaping of the sponsons fore and aft of each paddle wheel.  Bear in mind that I didn't have very many ship building tools.  More experience with shaping wood elements (and a wood bender) would have been a big help.  After this picture was taken I smoothed them out quite a bit and repainted that section.  In this shot the decks had just been stacked so I could visualize next steps.


Before gluing any of the decks in place I created the paddle wheel covers (had bought a wood bender by then), the small wheel house and the walking beam engine.  The engine was a real puzzle to me and I had to Google "walking beam engines" to get a real clue re what I was doing.  The Bluejacket plans weren't especially helpful.  I did the engine at this point because it had to be in place to ensure that the decks surrounded it correctly.


In this picture the boat is pretty close to completion, and I had grown comfortable with the concept of "making things up" at that point.  For instance, the guardrails surrounding most of the decks were supposed to include brass wire stanchions, covered by a thin gauzy fabric (my wife tells me it's called tulle). The kit had some of that in it (as well as clear plastic for windows) but 30-years of storage, sometimes in attics, had ruined all of that stuff.   So I installed wire stanchions and glued thin wood strips to them (white & gold painted).  Not as classy as what Bluejacket intended, but I haven't lost any passengers yet.


1263840022_Aug14B.thumb.JPG.1c0387d5c29f643e1ee756e93f8d48aa.JPG  Here's a better angle showing the smoke stacks, their bracing and the life boats.1537435207_Aug14C.thumb.JPG.80a8b5613e8258d35c2a0723aebdd8da.JPG

The "Portland" decals on the sides were also destroyed by the years of storage, so I recreated them on PowerPoint and printed them out on glossy photo paper. I think they look better than the decals. 


The little red gates were not in the plans, but I thought the crew would appreciate easier access to things so I installed them.  Also note that all of the decks and roofs were ultimately repainted with a nautical grey color instead of sea green I originally used.


When I was done the ship was quite different than the real thing, or even what the model designers had intended.  But it was darned good experience for getting back into the game, and my kids and other visitors think I'm a genius.  Please don't rat me out.




Walking Beam Engine.JPG

Edited by Tom in NC
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Good work Tom,


your "Portland" looks great, keep it up...




Current builds

Steamship Ergenstrasse


"Mississippi Lady"  sternwheel steamer 1:30 kit build fun boat as Xmas present

"Zeesboot"  heritage wooden fishing small craft around 1870, POB  clinker scratch build scale 1:24

Pilot Schooner # 5 ELBE

Chebec "Eagle of Algier" 1753--scale 1:48-POB-(scratchbuild) 

"SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse" four stacker passenger liner of 1897, 1:144 (scratchbuild)
"HMS Pegasus" , 16 gun sloop, Swan-Class 1776-1777 scale 1:64 from Amati plan  (scratch build)Pilot schooner #5 Elbe

"Pamir" 4-mast barque, P-liner, 1:96  (scratchbuild)

"Gorch Fock 2" German Navy cadet training 3-mast barque, 1:95 (scratchbuild) 

"Heinrich Kayser" heritage Merchant Steamship, 1:96 (scratchbuild) 

"Bohuslän" , heritage ,live Swedish museum passenger steamer (Billings kit), 1:50 

"Lorbas", river tug, steam driven for RC, fictive design (scratchbuild), scale appr. 1:32

under restoration / restoration finished 

"Hjejlen" steam paddlewheeler, 1861, Billings Boats rare old kit, scale 1:50

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  • 3 months later...

Thanks to MrBlueJacket and Steve for your kind comments. 

Steve:  I'm already deep into a new project, the Cutty Sark, and I'm overdue to add to the build log I've posted on that.  Much more difficult than the Portland,

MrBlueJacket: if you know, can you give me any hints about BlueJacket coming out with a new model of the Charles W. Morgan?  I've heard rumors and that ship is on my bucket list.  Many of my ancestors were involved in the whaling industry, and some were ship captains.  I built a model of the Charles W. Morgan when I was in my 20s and I'd like to build it again before I get too much older.



Edited by Tom in NC
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Nicely done!

Building: 1:64 HMS Revenge (scratch - Victory Models plans)

On hold: 1:98 Mantua HMS Victory (kit bash), 1:96 Shipyard HMS Mercury


Favorite finished builds:  1:200 Orel Ironclad Solferino, 1:72 Schooner Hannah (scratch- Hahn plans), 1:72 Privateer Prince de Neufchatel (scratch - Chapelle plans), Model Shipways Sultana, Heller La Reale, Encore USS Olympia


Goal: Become better than I was yesterday


"The hardest part is deciding to try." - me

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On 3/16/2019 at 1:07 AM, Tom in NC said:

MrBlueJacket: if you know, can you give me any hints about BlueJacket coming out with a new model of the Charles W. Morgan? 


Yes i can. It is a large scale cross-section of the Morgan, at the tryworks. Scale 1/2" = 1' The modeler will build the tryworks brick-by-brick. Look for a release date of around the end of April this year. 79366744_Screenshot2019-03-18at12_10_15PM.png.fa0e26fef81bee7d9f4bdbc0c2418e58.png2120478971_Screenshot2019-03-18at12_08_24PM.png.8c26c769e48e46971c787537797be09e.png1716209029_Screenshot2019-03-18at12_07_00PM.png.f3ddb8dcc3cd064118b00a408bda48d2.png

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Congratulations on a very nice job! Those old kits can be quite a challenge. A lot of the younger modelers whose experience is limited to kits full of photo-etched and laser-cut parts and detailed multi-page instruction books have no idea what an accomplishment a build like this represents.


Don't forget to build a nice case for her. Your heirs will thank you for it!

Edited by Bob Cleek
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  • 2 weeks later...

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