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Albatros by Dr PR - Mantua - Scale 1:48 - Revenue Cutter kitbash about 1815

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Thanks.  I think everything posted on the forum is there for us to use and learn.


I am still trying to figure out what to do with the loose ends of the tackle falls. Placing them in Flemish coils is a popular - and cute - method. But no working ship would have those. Loose ropes scattered across the decks is the last thing you would want!

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I plan to rig the ship - someday. Considering that this model has been in progress for about 35 years now it may be a while before it is finished!


I don't know about sails. That depends upon how ambitious I am, and how much of a hurry I am to move on to other things.


I resumed this build mainly as a learning experience, to hone my talents at ship building and learn something about the Baltimore clippers.

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  • 1 month later...

It has been a while since I posted. Most of the delay was spent researching how cannons were rigged in the early to mid 1800s. There are plenty of drawings showing how the gun tackle was rigged when the gun was being fired, and several texts telling how to handle the tackle when firing the guns. There were some drawings and texts telling how to stow the guns - in several different configurations. One text did say that the length of the gun tackle rope should be six times the length of the cannon bore. This would leave several feet of gun tackle falls for the crew to handle when the gun is hauled in until the breech line stops it. But none of these texts or drawings tells what to do with the loose ends of the gun tackle rope when it is not being fired.


Many modelers flake these ropes in neat (Flemish) coils on the deck, and some just make loose coils. But this would have never been done at sea - the loose ends would be scattered all over the place and that would be very poor seamanship!


Some use the falls to wrap around the tackle as a type of serving. But I could find no text saying this was actually done, at least for a ship at sea. I did find a drawing showing the falls looped around belaying pins (or cleats) on the bulwarks, and another showed the falls looped and tied to prevent the rope from spreading out on the deck.






























This is what I decided to do - with a US one cent coin for size reference. I placed cleats (Syren Ship Models 3.5 mm boxwood cleats) on the bulwarks to either side of the gun ports. The gun tackle falls were looped around the cleats tightly and then the remainder was draped in a loose coil. I intended to take a turn around the loop with the loose end to create a figure eight (8) coil, but that has turned out to be a test of my dexterity. Maybe I'll do that later, but just accomplishing what you see was a lengthy process! I also intended to wrap the line around the cleat properly, but the cleats are a bit small and the rope would not cooperate.




THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A FIRING CONFIGURATION! When the gun was ready for firing the port and starboard tackle crews would pull the gun out to firing position with the gun tackle and then they would stretch the falls out straight so the line would run free. In some cases the lines might be faked down on the deck. When the gun was fired the falls would run through the tackle, acting as a brake for the rearward recoil. This is described in some of the period gun handling texts.


But sometime between when the guns were taken from stowage configuration and when they would be fired the guns would be run out and placed in a standby configuration, perhaps as shown here. Because the tall sails could be seen when the ship was far over the horizon, 20 miles or more away (in clear weather), and the ships actually moved slowly at less than 10 knots, it would be hours after a ship was first seen and the guns unstowed until firing commenced. In the mean time some method was needed to restrain the cannons, and tying the gun tackle falls to cleats or belaying pins would provide a means to restrain the guns that could be released quickly. At least that's my theory, and the way it is done on Captain Phil's ship!


The gun port lids/covers posed a bit of a problem. As I explained earlier the bulwark height was too low to allow the cannon barrels to run under the cap rail. Even after I designed and scratch built new gun carriages there was little clearance above the barrels. I installed the port hinges in the cap rail edge. Even so, the lids must be raised at a fairly steep angle to allow the cannons to fit under them (as shown above). Raised at such an angle they would provide the gun crew with some protection from musket shot and would be out of the blast from the cannons.


After studying books and drawings, and some pictures of actual ships, I came up with this method of raising and securing the lids in position. On larger ships, with heavier lids, the line to the ring bolt on the lid was fed through a two block tackle and then secured to a cleat on the gun port frame or on the bulwark nearby. On this small ship I just used a line without tackle. I led the line through a ring bolt in the cap rail and then to a 3.5 mm cleat beside the gun port. This keeps the line high and clear of the gun. And the thin silk thread could be wrapped properly around the cleat!


But, since I made the lids and hinges and installed them I have been thinking that some other arrangement would have been used. Perhaps two lid halves that were hinged vertically to swing to either side would have been more practical. Or the lids might not have been hinged, but were latched in place over the port and removed entirely and stowed when the guns were run out. Maybe the ships didn't  have gun port lids! Some of the revenue cutters didn't even have bulwarks. Given the sparsity of information about early 1800s revenue cutters we may never know.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi. I am in UK near Newcastle upon Tyne. Last year I bought a Mantua Albatross which was part built .

It had most of the hull planking done, rather badly, but the original box was there and seemed to contain most of the bits. And at £8  (s10) it was a bargain. Now I have completely re-planked the hull, laid the deck, made hatches, gun carridges, bitts and davits, and started on the masts.

Then I came upon this site........which got me worried. So I started doing some research and taking some measurements.

The box gives a model number 771 and the plan says "rev(ised) 2005. Gives scale 1:40

Using the plan and side elevation drawings, I found that according to the model manufactures, 

The inboard end of the tiller was 13" above deck.

The helmsman at the tiller was about 3' from binnacle, which was in a boxed cabinet 17" high

The capstan bars were 19" off the deck.

The ship's boat was 11'9"" l.o.a.

The fore-mast, main-mast and bow-sprit were all 13" dia.

So either she was crewed by very small sailors, or model manufacturers were less than accurate, or the model is nearer 1:120 scale. That would make tiller and binnacle cabinet ok, but would mean a 35' ships-boat and all 3 masts of in excess of 3' dia.


Do I start again with deck fittings, change spar sizes or complete as is, being more cautious, and do more research with my next model ????


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  • 2 weeks later...


The kit I am working from is #771, but I bought it in the early 1980s. There is no scale given on the plans or "instructions" (such as they are).

As you can see, I am not following the instructions or the plans that came with the ship - although I am using them for reference for some things. After looking through a number of books I have decided the deck plan in the kit is pretty good for a Baltimore clipper privateer of the Revolutionary War or War of 1812 period. It is similar to the American Lynx, which was captured by the British and renamed Mosquidobit. But I wanted to build the model as a revenue cutter.

The hull shape is good for just about any Baltimore clipper of the late 1700s to mid 1800s, so I decided to build it at 1:48 scale where 1 foot = 0.25". O scale trains are also 1:48 and I thought this might make it easier to find some parts.

At 1:40 scale 1 foot = 0.3 inch, as you have determined. And yes, you are right that some of the dimensions in the kit are pretty strange. I suspect many of the parts are just stock items that they put into many different kits, regardless of whatever scale the kit was supposed to be.

On the plans I have the length between perpendiculars (the waterline length) is about 15.3" and the length on deck is 17". This gives the following hull lengths and deck lengths at the various scales, and the length of a scale foot:


Scale   Deck length   Hull length   Scale foot
1:40          56.7'              51'                0.3"

1:48          68'                 61.2'             0.25"

1:64          90.67'            81.6'             0.1875"

1:72        102'                 91.8'             0.1667"

1:96        136'                122.4'            0.125"

As it happens a French fellow (Marestier) visited the US in the early 1800s and was interested in the Baltimore clippers. He recorded the dimensions of many of them. Howard Chapelle's "The Baltimore Clipper" published dimensions for 18 vessels Mariester recorded (page 112), along with many more. The length of these ships ranged from 54' to 115' length. The smaller vessels were pilot schooners or revenue cutters.

For comparison the Lynx/Mosquidobit was 95' length on deck. It had a deck plan similar to the kit and carried six cannons like the small ones in the kit. It was common for privateers to carry an extra long gun, like the kit.


At 1:40 scale the model would make a very small ship, more like a pilot schooner or small revenue cutter. These ships did not have bulwarks like the kit. The small cannons supplied with the kit would be 3 pounders, or smaller! 6 pounders were about the smallest guns the Baltimore clippers carried, and 12 pounders were common on the larger vessels. Even at 1:48 it is small for a privateer or cargo ship. 


To me it makes more sense for the kit to be 1:64 or 1:72 scale. At 1:64 the tiller handle would be 22" above deck, the distance between tiller and binnacle would be 2.7 feet and the capstan bars would be about 3 feet above the deck.


The important thing to remember is that the dimensions of these ships was pretty much determined by formula, based upon the length between perpendiculars. So all Baltimore clippers had about the same relative dimensions, regardless of the actual size of the ship. The British and French copied the original American design because they made fast ships (but that may have been influenced by an earlier French design). There were variations, especially in the more radical sail plans of the later American vessels. But all in all, a Baltimore clipper looked like a Baltimore clipper no matter when or where it was built.


So I suggest you do what I did. Ignore the scale suggested in the kit plans, and build it to whatever scale you think best. It will come out looking about the same no matter what scale you choose.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have been plodding along with the gun rigging, which is very tedious and boring!


I have also been studying the rigging on Baltimore clippers in order to determine1) where the lines will fasten on the hull, and 2) how much rope I will need to build the model.


The lengths and diameters of masts and bowsprit are a problem because no two "authorities" agree - and most formulas are given for full rigged ships and not schooners. I explained my rationale for mast lengths in an earlier post (#52). But the diameters were  a problem. Some say the fore mast was larger diameter than the main mast on topsail schooners, and others say they were the same. Some say schooner masts are only 4/5 the diameter of equivalent length masts on square rigged ships. And it is likely that different builders used different rules according to their preferences.


In my investigations I came up with a main mast diameter at the deck for this model to be between 0.34" and 0.43", with the fore mast being a bit smaller. I decided to make both masts the same diameter of 0.375" at the deck because this was within the range and 3/8" dowels are readily available.


The bowsprit was another matter. In most schooners it seemed to be the same diameter at the base as the masts. Fincham's rules give lengths based upon the length of the hull on the water (Line of Flotation). For this model the Line of Flotation (LOF) is 64 scale feet or 16" and the lengths are:


Heel to cap = 0.33 x LOF = 5.28"

Length outboard = 0.12 x LOF = 1.92"

Jibboom = 0.4 x LOF = 6.4" with about 1/3 length overrlap with the bowsprit = 2.1"


The angle (steeve) of the bowsprit to the waterline is given by the formulas as about 1:6 or 9.46 degrees. I examined drawings of 16 Baltimore clippers in Chapelle's book and found the bowsprit angles ranged from 4 degrees to 15.5 degrees, with an average of 8.375 degrees. Most were between 5 and 10 degrees. On the model as built the angle is 5 degrees - I can live with that.


Now with these dimensions in hand I can start calculating how much rope, and what types, I will need for the model.



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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been studying sail plans for Baltimore clippers - topsail schooners. There really isn't much variation for these ships, even when built in different countries.



The lengths of every mast, gaff and spar were calculated from Fincham's rules, found in Howard Chappel's "The Baltimore Clipper" on page 160. These rules are based upon the breadth of the hull (beam) and the Line of Flotation (distance between the forepost and sternpost at the waterline. There are quite a few possible variations, with each dimension giving minimum and maximum ranges, so I used the average values.


Note: The normal calculated lengths of the lower masts assumes the masts were stepped on the keel. The lower mast lengths shown here are shorter below the deck (partners) than the length calculated with the rules because that is the way the kit was designed.


Then the sail dimensions were generated using Fincham's rules. Sail dimensions and spar dimensions were in very close agreement.


The sails are:


1. Flying jib

2. Jib

3. Fore staysail

4. Fore gaff sail

5. Main gaff sail or mainsail

6. Fore gaff topsail

7. Main gaff topsail

8. Fore topsail

9. Studding sails


Number 6, the fore gaff topsail wasn't normally raised. It would be rigged only when the wind was greater at the tops than on the surface, and only when there was real need to catch as much breeze as possible. It is shown as a "flying" gaff topsail with the forward (luff) edge unattached to the mast. The flying gaff topsail could be raised and lowered from the deck.  A similar "standing" gaff topsail was attached to the top mast , but it had to be furled/unfurled by someone in the top.


In some cases a different triangular sail (main topmast staysail) was rigged on the main topmast stay in lieu of a fore gaff topsail.


Number 7 was the real problem. The Main gaff topsail is shown in several different configurations in the eleven books I have that show schooner sail plans and rigging. In some cases an ordinary gaff topsail was used, similar to the fore gaff topsail.


Many drawings in the books show the configuration in my drawing with the upper leading edge of the sail lashed to a spar. This configuration has been called:


spar gaff topsail

yard topsail

gaff topsail American fashion (with the spar vertical as shown in the drawing)

gaff topsail Swedish fashion (with the spar close to horizontal, like a topsail)

Cornish topsail

gunter or sliding gunter sail

spritsail (later fore and aft rigs only)


Whatever it was called the rig could be raised and lowered from the deck, similar to the fore topsail. There are actually two variations of the "American" style. In some cases the point of attachment of the lift to the spar is above the center of the spar, so gravity works to keep the sail aligned (the spar may even be attached to the mast cap). But the rig shown here has the lift attachment point below the center of the spar so the sail is hoisted even higher. For this to work the throat halyard (at bottom forward corner of the sail) must be hauled down hard after the lift is secured.


In yachting the spar gaff topsail is used to extend the sail higher than the mast top in order to catch a bit more wind. Every part of the Baltimore clipper's rig was designed to catch as much wind as possible, because speed was the reason these ships were built. So it seems this configuration was favored because it was easy to rig.


Not shown in the drawing are the ringtail (driver) and bonnets that might also have been used. The ringtail is essentially a studding sail for the mainsail, with a ringtail boom attached to and extending from the boom just as studding sail booms are attached to the yards, and with the top of the sail hoisted to the gaff by a ringtail yard. Bonnets were additional lengths of sail cloth that were attached to the bottoms of the fore and main gaff sails to add sail area. These are sometimes called water sails, although in some books water sails for schooners were triangular sails like jibs that were attached to the bottoms of the gaff sails.


I think the sizes of the flying jib, jib and fore staysail look a bit odd - only the jib was listed in Fincham's rules. I'll have to work on this some more. But for now I have a good idea of how many running rigging lines will have to have fastenings on the deck or bulwarks, and that was the real purpose of this exercise.


Also, some topsail schooners had a fore topgallant sail and yards (or fore lower topsail and fore upper topsail). However, the ship I am modeling is a bit smaller than the average topsail schooner. The smaller revenue cutters didn't carry the topgallant. The later larger vessels did have the two fore topsails.

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Thanks. But if you build a Baltimore clipper you should check the small details for the ship you want to build because different builders had their favorite ways of doing things. I am still trying to decide how to rig some of the standing rigging - there are multiple choices for some of the lines. You can see a few question marks in my drawing. These lines are rigged multiple ways in the drawings in Chapelle's book, and the newer schooners of the 20th century have even more differences.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Agreed.   The name Baltimore Clipper covers a very wide and complex subject.

I am finding that putting a name to a build entails a whole library of research.

I do enjoy this side of the preparation and the more I read, the more I appreciate your log.

These are beautiful craft and fully deserve the extra work involved.


Keep up the good work.




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  • 5 months later...

Thanks for the comments guys. I haven't been doing much building this summer - too many other things are distracting me. But I am thinking about future work and a few minor changes to what has already been built.


Please keep in mind that I am learning as I go along, and there are a few things in the existing build that I think are not historically correct. Here is a list of things I would do differently:


1. The stern and transom are a more modern design than the early to mid 1800s revenue cutters. When I first started this build I was thinking of building a modern topsail schooner, but I became interested in the revenue cutters. I have thought about cutting it back but that might make a real mess. So just think of it as a daring ahead of it's time build. But I have a few small changes to make it more of the style used in the early 1800s.


2. The deck house may be too wide. It is based upon dimensions in Chapelle's books for the Doughty 80 ton revenue cutter. It might be OK for a smaller ship, but a schooner of the size I am building might have had a slightly narrower cabin. Who knows? There are very few reliable plans for deck fittings on these ships. The skylight is possibly too fancy for a revenue cutter. It may also be a more modern design.


3. I am pretty sure the gun port lids are totally wrong! More likely these ships didn't have lids/covers for the gun ports, or the covers were two part with one half at the bottom, possibly hinged to drop down, and the upper half a portable (removable) piece that was latched in place when the port was covered. In some cases the lower half of the cover was also just latched in place when the gun was stowed, and removed for action. Most examples I have seen have holes for the cannons to protrude through when the port covers were in place.


After getting the port lids to operate and raise on hinges set into the cap rail, I am thinking of removing them and starting over with two piece covers. I would use putty to fill in the holes in the cap rail instead of removing the existing cap rail and starting over.


4. I will fix the rudder! Getting the pintles and gudgeons bass ackwards is just embarrassing!


5. Pin rails. As I was resuming this build I read in a post on the forum that belaying pins weren't used on ships earlier than the 1820s to 1830s. I was planning to attach all the running rigging to cleats. But further discussion on that thread revealed plenty of evidence that belaying pins were used as early as the 1600s on some larger ships. So I plan to add the appropriate (whatever that is) pin rails.


6. I am still trying to figure out the lower mast dimensions. I have the formulas for large square rigged ships, but several authors say the masts on schooners were smaller because the load of spars and canvas was less. But I have no good information about how much smaller.


This is important because all of the rigging sizes were based upon the diameter of the lower masts.


7. I may name the model "No Name" or something equivalent so no one will think it is an accurate representation of an actual revenue cutter.

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I'm still planking (not all that well,as it's my first) my Pride of Baltimore II which I'm planning on de-modernizing,leaving off things like radar,propellors,engine room hatch etc to make it look more like a period ship. I don't think my stern is going to look a lot like the POB's, and getting the stern graphics to look good is daunting. I have the Chapelle book and will draw on that. I may end up making her generic, perhaps naming the ship CHARLENE, for my wife.

BTW,Doc PR-- are you an actual Doctor, and if so, what kind? I'm a retired podiatrist.


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  • 1 month later...



I have a PhD in Microbiology. When I was a kid an aunt called me "Phil" when I was nice, "PR" when I was a bit naughty, and "Pill" when I was a real terror. When I got my PhD I became "Dr. PR." Some of my friends call me "Dr. Phil" but apparently that name is already in use.


The sterns of these ships has been a bit confusing. Texts talk about "square tuck" and "round tuck," but like so many functionally illiterate writers they seen to think everyone understands what they mean and give no clear illustration or description of what they are talking about. Then there is the very different stern treatment that was common in the late 1800s and early 1900s, more like what I have done on my model, where the hull planking extends to the transom all around. And the later yachts and fishing schooners had yet another "modern" design with no actual transom.

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6 hours ago, Dr PR said:


The sterns of these ships has been a bit confusing.

You ain't kidding Doc!  Since my last post I've planked my POB and it came out pretty well, thanks to filler. I still haven't added the transom though. The issue now is how the toprail of the ship,which I haven't installed yet, will intersect with the transom. I'm holding off on the bulwarks and rail until after I do the deck, to make the planking and nibbing more accessible. She'll remain sternless for a while I'm afraid.

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I have been doing more research into sail plans for topsail schooners. Right now this is what I am planning to rig on my model.




The sails are:

1. Flying jib

2. Jib

3. Fore stay sail

4. Fore sail or gore gaff sail

5. Main sail or main gaff sail

6. Fore gaff topsail

7. Main gaff topsail

8. Ringtail or driver

9. Fore course

10. Fore top sail

11.  Fore top studding sails


The fore course, fore gaff topsail, main gaff topsail, ringtail and studding sails were not always raised, but were added to take advantage of winds and to out on speed.


There were a lot of variations in topsail schooner rigs. I have created another thread to discuss the other rigs:


Topsail schooner sail plans

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That's fascinating information even though I don't plan on any sail on my Pride of Baltimore II.

Speaking of which, the POB has been closed this season due to COVID-19 so a lot of the volunteer maintenance done before each season has almost literally gone by the board. However, they are farming out smaller jobs which volunteers can do at home in the form of a "project in a box". I signed up for that and yesterday went down to Baltimore and picked up a mahogany bench from the below decks navigation station as well as all supplies,some tools etc and detailed instructions on how to proceed. So, I'll get to work on my model POB and the real ship at the same time! As a bonus, I got to sneak under the shrink wrap and see the real ship for the first time.



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You are lucky that you have the real thing to volunteer on! Where I live there are not many historical things to work on, and certainly no ships. We do have a pre-Civil War frontier fort, Fort Hoskins, that I have volunteered to help with, but that is a very slow project.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Phil,


I refer to your build log frequently as I build my own Albatros. You do such lovely work 😊 My kit has a bell that appears to be mounted on a sort of boxy shelter with a glass front. I didn't see a bell on your deck and so was wondering if the glass was an accurate historical detail. I've seen photos of the bell in all sorts of hanging contraptions but not on an enclosed box.  What is the purpose of the glass front?


16116131970503610777608209780462.thumb.jpg.e500c72ce1239539d4d37d22d8d39e44.jpgDo you have any suggestions for me before I put this together? 


Thank you in advance😄

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  • 2 weeks later...



Sorry for the late reply. For some reason the Forum no longer notifies me when a post is made to this thread (or any threads I follow).


I thought about putting the bell where it is shown on the Albatros drawings, but it would be very susceptible to damage from a swinging boom. I think I will mount it on the fore side of the main mast below the boom foot. This was a common place for a ship's bell. But I haven't decided to do that for certain.



The box with the glass front is the binnacle - where the compass was housed. Typically it would have had glass directly in front of the compass rose and opaque doors to either side. Oil lamps would be placed behind the doors on either side of the compass at night to illuminate the compass. The binnacle often was actually a "piece of furniture" that could be moved around, but it was tied down to ring bolts in the deck  most of the time.


Here is my binnacle. I should put door knobs on the side doors, and tie-down rings on the sides. There is a compass rose behind the window but it doesn't show very well.






Some small vessels did not have a capstan or windlass. I have posted a thread about the anchor handling on small vessels. I plan to rig the fish davit, anchor and messengers as in this link:




Edited by Dr PR
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I have spent weeks looking at rigging rules for ships and schooners. I have created a thread with general discussions of rules for masting and rigging of topsail schooners. It will eventually include the rules for lengths and diameters of all masts, spars, booms and gaffs, plus rules for determining circumference/diameter of all standing and running rigging.



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